OFFSHORE WIND ON THE SOUTH COAST
ENGAGING TO ENSURE A TRANSPARENT AND COMMUNITY-LED PROCESS
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. Initially, 3 gigawatts of electricity could be generated by the wind farm, enough to power over 2 million homes.
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. However, only parts of the call areas will be made available for leasing. (This means the call areas you see on the map would not be entirely filled with wind turbines, and the actual area of a wind farm would shrink in the leasing process.)
We are at a very early stage of the offshore wind process – there won’t actually be a fully developed proposal for a project for 3-4 years. At this moment South Coast communities must advocate for a process that works for and benefits our communities, not outside corporate interests. It is essential that South Coast community members, Tribes, and impacted industries lead and define this process to maximize community benefits and minimize harm to cultural and ecological resources.
CLIMATE JUSTICE PRIORITIES FOR OFFSHORE WIND:
Climate change means we have to transition to clean energy and away from fossil fuels, but that transition must be just and beneficial for local communities. In order for offshore wind to be part of that transition on the South Coast, it must be led by Tribes and community members, minimize harm to natural environments, and protect maritime industries from displacement. Many on the South Coast have real concerns about floating offshore wind’s impacts to the fishing community, our ocean and estuarine ecosystems, and more. At the same time, many on the South Coast are excited about the potential to create some permanent living wage jobs, support coastal energy resilience, and support Oregon’s goal of reaching 100% clean electricity by 2040.
In order for Floating Offshore Wind to move forward on the South Coast, the process must meet these priorities:
Meaningful Tribal consultation and respect for Indigenous Sovereignty.
Meaningful consultation and prior and informed consent of Tribes on the South Coast who’s cultural and natural resources could be impacted by floating offshore wind must be required for a project to move forward.
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.
Protections for the Coos Bay Estuary to ensure minimal impacts to this essential ecosystem, fisheries, & cultural resources.
BOEM must prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) in order to address the uncertainty about cumulative impacts to marine resources from floating offshore wind on Oregon’s South Coast. Floating offshore wind proposals should not be considered that require significant dredging or development in the Coos Bay estuary. Manufacturing floating offshore wind turbine parts at one of the Pacific Northwest’s more developed industrial Ports should be prioritized instead.
Strong labor provisions including job training for people transitioning from other industries, local hiring, and well-paying union jobs.
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
Community benefits > Corporate profits including job training for people transitioning from other industries, local hiring, and well-paying union jobs.
If leasing moves forward, BOEM should use a multi-factoral bidding process that awards leases based on a project merits, not price. This process must require developers to reach Community Benefits Agreements and Project Labor Agreements with Tribes, local fishing community representatives, environmental justice organizations, conservation organizations, labor, and other stakeholders directly impacted by the proposal.
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.
How could Floating Offshore Wind benefit our communities on the South Coast?
- 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
- Create good, family-wage, union jobs for South Coast communities & growing renewable energy skills training for our communities.
- 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).
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. It is essential that we engage in the process to make it work for our communities.
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. However, beyond consultation, a just offshore wind proposal must have representatives from Tribal Governments 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. Engaging at every stage of the process is important to ensure that any proposed project is more beneficial than harmful to South Coast communities.
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. One way we can engage is to advocate for the turbines to be produced at a different, more developed NorthWest port to avoid harmful dredging to the Coos Bay Estuary.
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?
Cost will depend on the outcome of the project. In general, 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 rule-making at the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) and should roll out by the end of 2022.
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