Oregon’s Future Depends on an Untapped Resource - Offshore Wind

October 31, 2022
Oregon’s Future Depends on an Untapped Resource - Offshore Wind

Published in the PortlandBusiness Journal on October 31, 2022.

Oregon’s future depends on an untapped resource - offshore wind 

Developing floating offshore wind projects off the coast of Oregon and in other deep waters can make U.S. and regional clean energy goals a reality. No other emerging renewable resource comes close to offshore wind’s power generating potential. Research shows floating offshore wind could eventually produce double the amount of energy Americans currently consume each year.    

Oregon has been at the forefront of deploying solar and wind on land. But so far, only 10gigawatts of solar and onshore wind have been added to the region over the last twenty years. We need 80 gigawatts to reach the Pacific Northwest’s decarbonization goals. It has never been more important to use every tool we have to create clean, renewable, reliable energy. 

In just the last month, both the federal government and the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE)have pointed to Oregon as a potential leader in floating offshore wind, an emerging industry that can coexist with key Oregon industries like commercial fishing and shipping.  

The U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior recently announced a massive new effort, the Floating Offshore Wind Shot, to reduce costs and prepare the infrastructure needed to unlock the benefits of floating offshore wind, with the goal of creating 15 gigawatts from the technology by 2035. That much renewable energy potentially created in waters off the coasts of Oregon, California, andNortheastern states, could power more than five million homes and businesses.  

And in a new report delivered to the Oregon legislature, ODOE summarized the potential for offshore wind this way:  

Achieving Oregon’s economy-wide decarbonization and clean electricity policies will require developing a tremendous scale of new renewable generation projects. Federal waters off Oregon’s coast hold the potential to develop dozens of gigawatts of floating offshore wind that could make a meaningful contribution to an all-of-the-above solution to achieving the state’s clean energy goals.  

State lawmakers commissioned the report to gain a better understanding of the benefits and challenges of integrating offshore wind in the next decade.  Along with scalable clean energy, the benefits include a stronger and more diverse electric grid, energy resilience for communities on the coast, and major economic opportunities.  

This new industry will need a skilled workforce to build and maintain wind projects and create the supporting infrastructure, including at Oregon’s ports. The Biden Administration estimates that could be more than 77,000 jobs across the U.S., with thousands here in Oregon.  

 One of the challenges ODOE notes in its report is determining floating offshore wind’s interaction with existing industries and the environment.  Creating clean, renewable energy in a way that has a minimal impact is critical to everyone involved in this process. Floating offshore wind projects will undergo significant environmental review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and require permits from state and federal agencies prior to construction.  

Fishing is at the heart of communities along Oregon’s coast. And when faced with challenges, our state has a long history solving big issues and taking bold steps together to protect our communities and our natural resources. On other offshore wind projects, perspectives from the fishing industry and community, environmental and tribal organizations influenced project layouts, cable routes, and cable burial and landing techniques. Perspectives from these different groups will help shape projects here as well.  

In the coming years, the devastating effects of climate change will only get worse. Wildfire seasons are already longer and more intense, we face consistent severe drought, and ocean temperatures are rising, putting entire ecosystems at risk.

Oregon has a real opportunity to become an international leader in floating offshore wind and help mitigate the climate crisis, but we must act and work together now. Our communities and futures depend on it.  

Kevin Banister is an Oregonian and president of Deep Blue Pacific Wind, a joint venture between TotalEnergies and Simply Blue Group working to bring the benefits of floating offshore wind to the Pacific Northwest.