Proposed offshore wind farm snags federal funding

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COOS BAY — The U.S. Department of Energy has chosen a floating wind farm proposed for the deep waters off Coos Bay, Ore. for up to $47 million in matching grant funds over the next four years.

In February, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave Principle Power of Seattle the go-ahead to craft plans for the WindFloat Pacific project, a proposed 30-megawatt floating offshore wind farm.

Principle Power is proposing to site five floating “WindFloat” units within a 15-square-mile area some 18 miles offshore in more than 1,000 feet of water. Each unit will carry a 6-megawatt offshore wind turbine. Electrical cables connect the units, and a single cable would bring the power onshore.

If the project receives final approval, it would be the first offshore wind project on the West Coast and the first in the nation to use floating structures to support wind generation in the Outer Continental Shelf.

“This project presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of deepwater wind technology, accelerate economic activity in our region and position the Pacific Northwest to be a leader in these projects,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in a Department of Energy news release. “I commend the Department of Energy for its support. With ongoing support and careful development, WindFloat Pacific can represent a world-leading advancement in wind energy — demonstrating technologies and methodologies that not only open huge new areas to the prospect of renewable energy development but also bring jobs and opportunity.”

Following DOE’s announcement on Wednesday, Principle Power and Deepwater Wind announced an agreement to complete development of the wind farm project. Deepwater Wind is an offshore wind developer. Its Block Island Wind Farm off the Rhode Island coast could be the nation’s first offshore wind farm.

Principle Power has also operated a WindFloat prototype off the coast of Portugal since 2011.

The Coos Bay project was one of three nationwide awarded the Department of Energy grants. The other winning projects are in New Jersey and Virginia. These projects are intended to speed the deployment of more efficient offshore wind power technologies, the department said in its news release.

The project on the Oregon Coast won’t be the first to attempt to harvest wind energy from the windy area. This spring, New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies halted its work on a wind energy project off the coast of Reedsport, Ore., after spending millions of dollars on the venture. Oregon Iron Works of Clackamas, Ore., built a buoy for that project, with much of the work performed at the company’s Vancouver manufacturing facility.

A spokesman for Principle Power said the company has not yet chosen a contractor to manufacture equipment and facilities for the new WindFloat Pacific project.