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Biden administration moves ahead with proposed Oregon offshore wind power

Offshore wind turbines spin off the coast of Virginia Beach, Va., in 2020. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will assess areas in waters near Coos Bay and Brookings, Ore., as potential sites for offshore wind farms.  (Associated Press)
Offshore wind turbines spin off the coast of Virginia Beach, Va., in 2020. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will assess areas in waters near Coos Bay and Brookings, Ore., as potential sites for offshore wind farms. (Associated Press)
By Nicholas Turner Seattle Times

Two sites near the Oregon coast have been identified by the federal government as potential leasing sites for offshore wind energy.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will assess areas in federal waters near Coos Bay and Brookings, Oregon – both about 14 miles, or about 12 nautical miles, from the coast – as potential sites for offshore wind farms, the Department of the Interior announced Wednesday.

BOEM published a call for information and nominations to gauge commercial interest and public input on both sites. Public comments can be submitted at regulations.gov until the period ends in 60 days on June 28.

Several offshore wind-energy projects have been approved and begun construction along the East Coast as the Biden administration pushed to create 30 gigawatts of electricity through offshore by 2030. While topographical features along the West Coast – namely the deep drop in water depth along its continental shelves – present a technological conundrum, floating wind turbines could be the answer.

This project is an opportunity to help “make the West Coast a floating wind technology capital of the world,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “We’re really looking to get as much information as we can as early on in the process.”

The sites encompass an area spanning over 1.1 million acres near the south and south-central coast of Oregon. The calls for commercial interest and public comment will help BOEM identify technological constraints, areas of high wind speed, sensitive marine habitats and potential impacts on commercial fisheries.

While BOEM has not issued similar calls in Washington, the agency is in the process of reviewing two unsolicited lease requests from developers looking to initiate wind-energy projects along its coast. One of those requests was submitted earlier this month by Seattle-based developer Trident Winds, which proposed a floating wind farm – the state’s first – about 43 miles off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula, near Grays Harbor.

“We will continue to evaluate those opportunities in the future,” Lefton said. Under the Biden administration, BOEM “has created tremendous momentum to make offshore wind a reality in the United States so that we can fight climate change and create good-paying jobs.”

“As we move forward, we are committed to doing so in a manner that robustly engages communities and avoid, as much as we can, impacts to other ocean users and marine life.”

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