OFFSHORE WIND ON THE SOUTH COAST

WHAT IS FLOATING OFFSHORE WIND?

Floating offshore wind (FOSW) is a relatively new renewable energy technology that places floating wind turbines off the coast in deep water.  This is the technology proposed off of Oregon’s South Coast because of the depths of the ocean floor. Floating turbines are attached to the deep ocean floor by cables. Energy generated by the turbines are transported to shore by cables under the water, and then connected to the broader electric grid.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is exploring floating offshore wind off of Oregon’s South Coast because the region has some of the strongest and most consistent wind across the entire West Coast.  After compiling research, feedback and other data about protected species, ocean users including the fishing and crabbing industries, and wind viability, in early 2022 BOEM identified two “call areas,” or locations about 12 nautical miles off Oregon’s South Coast where companies can apply for leases to develop floating offshore wind.  One call area is off the South Coast of Coos Bay and the other near Brookings, together comprising 1,158,400 acres.

 

HOW COULD OFFSHORE WIND BENEFIT OUR COMMUNITIES ON THE SOUTH COAST? 

  • Create good, family-wage, union jobs for South Coast communities & growing renewable energy skills training for our communities 

  • Contribute to meeting Oregon’s clean energy goals of 100% clean energy by 2040, and as a result contribute to reducing the harmful impacts of climate change on communities across the region and world 

  • Generate local clean energy to build greater energy resiliency in coastal communities’

  • Model what is possible for just, affordable, and transparent clean energy development that benefits local communities and protects cultural and ecological resources and existing jobs in fishing and crabbing

  • Provide a reliable source of clean energy to the broader Oregon electric grid, to offset times when solar or on-shore wind resources are less active (like at night and during the winter). 

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to supporting a robust clean energy economy, and the upcoming steps taken toward possible leasing off the coast of Oregon and Central Atlantic provides another opportunity to strengthen the clean energy industry while creating good-paying union jobs,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “We will continue using every tool in our toolbox to tackle the climate crisis, reduce our emissions to reach President Biden’s bold goals, and advance environmental justice.

CLIMATE JUSTICE COMMUNITY PRIORITIES FOR OFFSHORE WIND: 

Offshore wind on the South Coast must include these priorities in order to be a just climate solution that truly benefits South Coast communities:

Meaningful Tribal consultation and respect for Indigenous Sovereignty 

South Coast community participation in the process and decision-making to ensure that South Coast communities (including local representatives from Tribes, fishing industry, marine biologists, environmental justice advocates, and more) are at the planning and decision-making table

Strong labor provisions including job training for people transitioning from other industries, local hiring, and well-paying union jobs. 

Protections for the Coos Bay Estuary to ensure minimal impacts to this essential ecosystem, fisheries,  & cultural resources

Local energy resilience benefits including working with local electric co-ops and larger utilities to ensure energy infrastructure improves on the South Coast so communities have reliable, affordable energy in the case of extreme weather or disaster 

Rogue Climate has been meeting with community members on the South Coast, tracking and participating in the BOEM process, and connecting with values-aligned organizations who are navigating offshore wind in their own communities across the country.  We will continue to refine and build on these community priorities through a series of listening sessions on the South Coast in the coming months. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Will offshore wind bring local impacts, without local benefits?
The South Coast has a history of extractive industrial development where natural resources are utilized to benefit large corporations instead of creating long term benefits for  South Coast communities. When developing renewable energy projects, developers and community stakeholders can negotiate community benefit agreements in order to ensure community benefits (ex: local energy storage)  are maximized and harms (ex: impacts to fisheries) are minimized

Will Indigenous sovereignty be respected?
Consultation with Tribal governments is essential for equitable and successful offshore wind development. State and Federal agencies are required to do Tribal consultation on traditional and cultural resources in the proposed call areas, however consultation can often be insufficient. Representatives from Tribal Governments must be included in planning and decision-making from the start.

Will impacts to fish and crabs displace fishing communities?
The wind turbines and submarine cables required to support offshore wind may have impacts on marine species that fishing communities depend on. With the call areas primarily along the South Coast, there are concerns that fish and crab industries may be displaced from the region. A just offshore wind project must minimize impacts to fisheries and ensure fishing communities are not displaced through meaningful inclusion of fisheries representatives in planning and decision-making.

Will there be undue harm to cultural and ecological resources in the Coos Bay estuary?
The impact to the Coos Bay estuary will depend on the scale and scope of the proposed offshore wind development. It will be key that Tribes, the fishing industry, environmental justice advocates, and more are at the table throughout this process to ensure harm is minimized and benefits are maximized. 

Like developing renewable energy, protecting the Coos Bay Estuary is a critical solution to climate change. Estuaries are powerful carbon sinks and store carbon at faster rates than forests. Additionally, the bay has been the homelands of South Coast Tribes, including the Coquille, Hanis and Miluk Coos peoples, since time immemorial. This ecosystem is also the breeding ground for the fish and shellfish that support many families on the South Coast.  Developing the Port of Coos Bay to be a hub for Offshore Wind development could lead to more dredging, which has long-term negative impacts on this important ecosystem.

How is hydrogen development connected to offshore wind and what is it?
One way how the energy from offshore wind could be utilized (besides going directly to the electric grid) is through hydrogen development. Some concerns about hydrogen include harmful increased air pollutants (like NOx which can increase chances of asthma and other respiratory illnesses), transportation issues, massive water consumption,  and price.  Additionally, using renewables to produce hydrogen is about 20 to 40 percent less efficient than using renewable energy directly.

Will offshore wind development make the South Coast energy resilient?
Currently, the South Coast currently relies on energy that is generated and transmitted from eastern parts of Oregon. The energy transmission infrastructure to the South Coast is currently extremely limited, which makes our energy system quite vulnerable to natural disasters and coastal hazards.  Investments that go into offshore wind off the South Coast must also deepen energy resilience in South Coast communities through energy storage, community ownership, microgrids, tie into local electric co-ops, and more.

Will offshore wind make my energy bills more expensive?
No, the cost of renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels. However, the South Coast is one of the most energy burdened communities in Oregon. In 2021, the Oregon Legislature passed the Energy Affordability Bill which requires Pacific Power to develop cheaper rates for low-income households. This is currently in rulemaking at the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) and should roll out by the end of 2022.

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