Milestone cleared for first marine hydrokinetic research lease offshore the west coast; step in efforts to explore new frontier of wave energy offshore Oregon
As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to create American jobs, cut carbon pollution and develop domestic energy sources, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced today it has taken an important step toward issuing a research lease for a facility to test utility-scale wave energy devices in federal waters off Oregon. The non-competitive lease would be for the offshore area where the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University (Center) would site the hydrokinetic energy research project.
The Center proposes to design, build and operate the Pacific Marine Energy Center – South Energy Test Site about four nautical miles offshore Newport, where water depths range from 180-230 feet. The project is designed to support up to 20 megawatts of electricity generation which would be transmitted to the mainland grid via a subsea cable.
“Wave energy off the West Coast has incredible potential,” said BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank. “Today, we have reached an important step in the leasing process for the nation’s first grid-connected facility in Federal waters to test commercial-scale wave energy devices. Moving forward, we will work closely with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the reviews and development of the project.”
Today’s announcement builds on BOEM’s activities to grow offshore renewable energy through issuing leases for renewable energy initiatives. BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases and three competitive leases; and has scheduled another competitive lease sale for a Wind Energy Area off Massachusetts later this year. BOEM expects to hold additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Maryland, and New Jersey in the next year/
Earlier this month, BOEM issued a lease to Florida Atlantic University for marine hydrokinetic technology testing offshore Florida to evaluate the use of turbines powered by ocean currents. BOEM has also given the approval for Principle Power, Inc. to submit a formal plan to build a 30-megawatt pilot project using floating wind turbine technology offshore Coos Bay, Oregon.
The Center submitted a lease request for its wave energy test facility to BOEM in June 2013. On March 24, 2014, BOEM published the "Notice of Potential Research Lease on the Outer Continental Shelf Offshore Oregon, Request for Competitive Interest” in the Federal Register for public comment on the Center’s hydrokinetic facility proposal. Information received during the 30-day comment period enabled BOEM to determine that it is appropriate to issue a lease on a non-competitive basis.
The Center is one of three national research groups supported by the Department of Energy to facilitate the development of marine renewable energy technology with research, education and outreach.
BOEM has exclusive jurisdiction to issue leases, easements, and rights-of-way regarding Outer Continental Shelf lands for hydrokinetic projects. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has exclusive jurisdiction to issue licenses and exemptions for the construction and operation of hydrokinetic projects on the Outer Continental Shelf. The FERC will work with the Center to prepare environmental documents for the proposed research project. BOEM will be a cooperating agency.