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Bill DiBenedetto headshot

Seattle Company Plans First Offshore Wind Farm on Pacific Coast

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The nation’s first offshore wind farm on the Pacific Coast cleared a crucial federal hurdle after Seattle’s Principle Power received approval to move forward on a commercial lease for the proposed $200 million, 30-megawatt project.

Principle Power received the go-ahead this month from a Department of the Interior agency to lease 15 square miles of federal waters, 18 miles from Coos Bay, Ore. If the lease request gets final approval, the WindFloat Pacific project would anchor the first offshore turbines in federal waters on the West Coast. It also would be the first in the nation to use triangular floating platforms instead of single piles driven into the ocean floor.

At this stage of the complicated federal process, Principle’s plan is considered a demonstration project. DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released a finding that there are “no competitive interests for the offshore area of Oregon” where the company has requested the commercial lease. That finding clears the way under BOEM’s non-competitive leasing process for Principle Power to submit an implementation plan for the project. WindFloat Pacific will demonstrate floating offshore wind technology; it is one of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) seven Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects.

Principle Power has successfully operated a WindFloat prototype, WF1 offshore of Portugal, since 2011. To date it has delivered in excess of 8.4 gigawatt-hours of wind energy to the local grid.

Principle is a U.S. technology developer that is focused on the offshore wind energy market. Principle’s major product, the WindFloat, is a floating wind turbine support structure that enables the siting of offshore wind turbines in water depths greater than 40 meters/131 feet, thus capturing the world's windiest wind resources. The entire structure, from water surface to the end of the turbine blade, would rise about 600 feet. Offshore wind installations in these water depths have not been feasible to date, “due to economic and technological limitations,” according to BOEM.

The 2-megawatt WindFloat prototype currently operating off the Portugal coast is the first offshore wind turbine to be installed without the use of heavy lift equipment.

Under the Pacific Coast project, five 6-megawatt turbines and platforms would be assembled on Coos Bay harbor and then towed by tugboats approximately 17 miles out. They would be spaced about a mile apart and could begin generating a combined 30 megawatts of power by late 2017. That's enough to power 8,000 homes.

Ultimately, Principle hopes to deploy its platforms in Europe and in the Pacific along the West Coast, Hawaii and Japan.

But first the feds have to allow it to happen.

Image credit: WindFloat Pacific platform/turbine from Principle’s WindFloat Pacific website

Bill DiBenedetto headshotBill DiBenedetto

Writer, editor, reader and generally good (okay mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by.

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