Coos Bay Wind Farm Floats On
Surrounded by lush, emerald trees, Coos Bay, Oregon is positively idyllic. The clime is also nearly perfect, with the town receiving plenty of rainfall each year. Located on the bay of its namesake, the town is known for its quaint appeal and scenic natural landscapes. Some may have been introduced to Coos Bay as the hometown of former Olympian and track star Steve Prefontaine.
Despite its natural surroundings, one would not immediately associate Coos Bay with renewable energy. Now, that is changing.
In February of this year, Seattle-based Principle Power was given the green light by the U.S. Government to build the first off-shore wind farm on the West Coast off Coos Bay. Several months in, the project is moving along steadily and is supposed to bring clean energy, jobs, and a stimulated economy to the region.
WindFloat Gets its Sea Legs
While the green light for Coos Bay (known as the WindFloat Pacific project) came in 2012, Principle Power has been developing WindFloat technology for some time now.
As with many great inventions, the technology was formed by trying to solve a problem. Off-shore wind power depends on the ability to install various columns and structures to support the turbines on the ocean’s floor. However, much of the ocean is too deep to install such infrastructure. Principle Power’s solution to reaching deep water was to essentially ignore depth entirely. WindFloat is a simple floating support structure that allows turbines to be placed in areas of the ocean that exceed 60 meters in depth without extensive heavylift operations during the units final assembly, deployment, and commissioning.
In 2011, Principle Power deployed the first full-scale prototype off the coast of Aguçadoura, Portugal. The unit was assembled entirely on land and towed from dry dock at its assembly station in Setubal 400km up the coast to its current point.
Principle believes that the technology provides access to untapped energy potential, as well as cut down economic costs. They also believe the tech will allow them to tow units to areas offshore that are not visible from land.
Alla Weinstein, CEO of Principal Power, believes the WindFloat will revolutionize the way the industry approaches offshore energy. "In a way we are making a similar leap towards new energy resources as the Oil & Gas industry did in the 1970's when it began using floating structures,” she said.
Winds of Change
"The (deep) ocean is the next big energy frontier," said António Vidigal, CEO of Energias de Portugal, Principle’s partner in getting the prototype afloat. He’s not the only taking notice, either.
The U.S. Energy Department is funding three major offshore wind developments over the next four years, one of which is Coos Bay. Each project will receive up to $47 million dollars with the hope they will deploy in 2017. The other two projects are off the coasts of Atlantic City, New Jersey and Virginia Beach, Virginia. The Coos Bay project remains unique in its utilization of WindFloat, though. The Department of Energy hopes the efforts will lead to more than just renewable energy.
“Offshore wind offers a large, untapped energy resource for the United States that can create thousands of manufacturing, construction, and supply chain jobs across the country and drive billions of dollars in local economic investment,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
The U.K. has already jumped on board with offshore wind farms, boasting the most in the world. They also host the largest. As of 2013, the London Array was measured as having a capacity of 630MW. Floating turbines are also set to launch in 2016. While the U.K. clearly has the lead on offshore wind power, the U.S. is still attempting to keep up.
Sailing Ahead in Coos Bay
The outlook for the project in Coos Bay is mostly optimistic, though some residents have expressed skepticism about its environmental and social impact. Speaking to Oregon’s KCBY News, Hugh Link with the Dungeness Crab Commission said the project is a bit outside of the their crab grounds, but the group is “concerned for other fisheries and for the maritime safety.”
The maritime safety he’s referring to involves frequency currents used by the U.S. Coast Guard to help search for missing boats.
Principle Power is not concerned, with its VP Kevin Banister telling the network that “it seems like there is less environmental interaction out that far from shore and in water that's that deep, we think that there's less fishing activity that far out.”
The Bureau of Ocean Management sought public comment for the project through July 28.
Many are hopeful the project will be a success, as it would be the first to use floating offshore technology in the U.S.
Also tackling the project is Deepwater Wind, the developers of Rhode Island’s Block Island Wind Farm.
“Having Deepwater Wind as a project developer brings together accomplishments and expertise —Principle Power’s proven technology and Deepwater’s experienced energy team,” said Weinstein. “We are excited to be working with the nation’s leading offshore wind developer.”
Both parties are hoping that the Coos Bay Wind Farm will lead the way for more similar developments, making the U.S. a powerhouse in the offshore wind energy sector.
The WindFloat technology’s first true test, however, will take place off of Coos Bay.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.