The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held an offshore wind energy leasing and planning process meeting on February 25 to share information about its early plans for wind development off the coast of Oregon. BOEM presented its three proposed call areas, at Coos Bay, Bandon and Brookings, which together could offer wind energy capacity of 17 GW.
BOEM is considering a 3-GW near-term development as it focuses on areas with the highest potential for commercial offshore wind energy viability. According to the Bureau, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2021 indicated that 2,625 MW of offshore wind capacity could be integrated into Oregon’s power system without major upgrades to the trans-coastal transmission. The power could be distributed among five coastal substations, two of which have interconnection points near BOEM’s proposed call areas.
In response to the call area announcement, Susan Chambers, Chair of the Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition (SOORC), said: “The effect of offshore wind development on fisheries, the habitat and the California Current is unknown. Placing giant turbines and anchors in a current system that is largely free-flowing and structure-free could cause irreparable harm to seabirds, marine mammals, fisheries management regimes and more. Robust environmental analyses need to be completed before areas are identified and leased, not after. Our productive California Current must be protected.”
Fishing industry groups are also rallying, looking to have a say as plans are developed.
Heather Mann, Director of the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, said, “BOEM has essentially chosen prime fishing areas for turbines, threatening not just Oregon harvesting and processing jobs, but food security, as well.”
“These turbines are going to blow me off the water,” said Fishermen’s Marketing Association President Travis Hunter.
BOEM has itself identified migratory whales, sea turtles and several species of birds that could be endangered by the wind development.
On March 4, the Pacific Fishery Management Council Marine Planning Committee will host a meeting to discuss the next steps in the authorization process and to enable members of the fishing community to engage with BOEM representatives.