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.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere