Opinion

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Recently the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held a webinar regarding Oregon Offshore Wind (OSW).  The focus was to discuss approaches for public and stakeholder engagement for potential future development off of our coast.  The previous meeting, last September, resulted in gatheringof interested citizens, myself included, to learn more about OSW and how it might impact our coastal communities.  It is a complex issue that, like so many others, is further complicated by mis-information.   

Oregon Coast Energy Alliance Network (OCEAN) was formed by coastal interests to evaluate the impacts and maximize the benefits to coastal communities of any proposed OSW project.  Our members represent coastal tribal, county, labor, environmental, business development, shipping, climate action, energy access advocacy and resilience interests. As a renewable energy practitioner and advocate for community energy security I’ve welcomed the opportunity to organize OCEAN’s efforts.  Here’s a bit of what we’ve learned so far: 

• Commercial fishers should be directly engaged in initial planning processes for Oregon ocean energy projects 

• Floating wind resides in deeper water than fixed foundations, installed on the East coast, so can be located to minimize fishing and viewshed impacts 

• OSW is on track to be affordable for Oregonians in time for West coast development. Today, fixed foundation OSW energy on the East coast is landing on the grid at $0.05 - $0.12/kWh. (A recently published opinion by a local official stated $0.50 - $1.00/kWh and speculated $1,500/month electricity bills, I suspect he got his decimal point in the wrong place.) National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) anticipate that Oregon floating wind can hit Oregon’s grid at $0.05/kWh or under by 2032. This would result in Oregonian’s paying about the same price for clean wind energy as we currently pay for our existing mix of imported energy. 

• Long term Oregon, currently an electricity importer, could become an energy exporter reaping additional economic benefits of supplying California’s lucrative power market while contributing to a resilient and robust West coast grid 

•South coast ports and people are poised to supply and service a multi-billion dollar clean energy opportunity 

Thanks to our national labs and universities, our understanding of the potential impacts of OSW increases daily. OCEAN is sharing what we learn and advocating for coastal interests. We support an informed and engaged coastal citizenry making decisions about our own energy, economic and cultural futures.  You can become part of the conversation at www.oceanwind.org.    

SHANNON SOUZA, P.E., is affiliated with OCEAN and lives in Allegany, Oregon. 

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