Oregon Offshore Wind Energy

Oregon offshore wind energy areas have been approved, setting the stage for the state to hit its clean energy goals.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Oregon offshore wind energy areas have been approved, setting the stage for the state to hit its clean energy goals. Photo by Grahame Jenkins on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Oregon offshore wind energy areas have been approved, setting the stage for the state to hit its clean energy goals.

Oregon is setting up a clean energy future with the designation of its first Oregon offshore wind energy areas (WEAs) by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). This landmark decision paves the way for harnessing the power of the Pacific Ocean winds to generate clean, renewable energy.

The two WEAs encompass nearly 200,000 acres off the Oregon Coast. Oregon offshore wind has the potential to generate a combined 2.4 gigawatts (GW) of electricity. This translates to powering roughly 800,000 homes, a significant step towards Oregon’s ambitious clean energy goals.

The designated Oregon offshore wind Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) are strategically located to maximize energy production potential while minimizing impacts on coastal communities and the fishing industry. One WEA lies off the coast near Coos Bay, a considerable distance of 32 miles from shore. The other is positioned closer to the California border near the town of Brookings, approximately 18 miles offshore. This strategic placement allows the wind farms to tap into the strong and consistent wind resources over the Pacific Ocean.

At the same time, situating them farther out reduces viewshed impacts for coastal residents and visitors alike, mitigating concerns about obstructed ocean vistas. Moreover, the extended distance from land is intended to steer clear of critical fishing grounds closer to shore, where many commercial and recreational fisheries operate.

BOEM has worked closely with stakeholders like the fishing industry, coastal municipalities, and environmental groups to determine these offshore wind locations that aim to balance renewable energy development with protecting marine ecosystems, economies, and ways of life. By carefully considering these factors, the agency demonstrates its commitment to advancing offshore wind responsibly in Oregon.

Commercial fishing is a vital part of their economy, and potential impacts on fishing activities were a major concern with Oregon offshore wind. BOEM addressed this by avoiding 98% of the areas recommended for exclusion by commercial fishing groups. This collaborative approach ensures that clean energy development and traditional industries can co-exist sustainably.

The clean energy industry welcomes this decision. Anne Reynolds, vice president for offshore wind at the American Clean Power Association, applauded BOEM for “listening carefully to Oregonians while ensuring that Oregon offshore wind can be responsibly developed.” This project aligns with Oregon’s commitment to environmental sustainability and positions the state as a leader in offshore wind energy development on the West Coast.

While there’s optimism, some groups have expressed concerns. The Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians passed a resolution opposing Oregon offshore wind development, citing potential environmental impacts. They remain open to working with BOEM to ensure responsible development.

Similarly, the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, representing bottom-trawling fishermen, voiced concerns about a lack of meaningful engagement during the planning process. Heather Mann, director of the Cooperative, expressed skepticism, stating, “BOEM will stop at nothing until our oceans are littered with wind turbines.”

BOEM understands these concerns. The next steps for Oregon offshore wind development involve preparing a thorough environmental assessment that analyzes the potential ecological impacts of development within the WEAs. This will be followed by public comment periods, ensuring transparency and opportunities for stakeholder involvement. Only after addressing these concerns and incorporating public input will BOEM consider leasing the WEAs for development by wind energy companies.

The state of Oregon has set a target of achieving 3 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030. This project, if successfully developed, could be a major contributor to meeting that goal. Clean energy not only reduces reliance on fossil fuels but also creates jobs, boosts local economies, and combats climate change.

Oregon’s first foray into offshore wind energy is a significant step towards a cleaner future. However, responsible development requires open communication, careful environmental assessments, and collaboration with potentially impacted communities. By navigating these challenges, Oregon can harness the power of the wind while safeguarding its precious marine environment and ensuring a sustainable future for all.

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