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$4M wind project off Coos Bay adopted

Deep-sea wind turbines could be operating off the coast of Coos Bay by 2017.

A Seattle-based company received a $4 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department on Wednesday to develop offshore wind turbines that would be installed 10-15 miles west of the bay.

If the company, Principle Power, successfully completes engineering and permitting for the project, it will become eligible for more federal grant money.

This grant ‘allows us to begin in earnest the engineering phase,” said Kevin Banister, vice president for Principle Power. ‘What it does not allow us to do is actually put (the turbines) in the water.”

Principle is still required to obtain federal permits. Because the proposed site is more than three miles offshore, out of Oregon’s territorial sea, the company is not required to obtain state permits.

The technology Principle intends to test uses massive turbines placed on semi-submersible floating foundations in deep water.

‘The floating platform, the semi-submersible, came out of the oil and gas industry,” Banister said. ‘How these things work is not a mystery.”

Before such technology existed, offshore wind was out of reach of wind energy producers. According to the Department of Energy, the potential for offshore wind energy production exceeds what is possible onshore.

Furthermore, scientists have found that wind off the Southern Oregon Coast is some of the best in the world for energy production, Banister said.

The company already is negotiating with the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay, which calls the deep sea wind proposal Project Effectuate.

If the project passes the engineering and permitting phase, Principle Power intends to build and launch the wind turbines from a shipping berth adjacent to Jordan Cove Energy Partner’s proposed liquefied natural gas export facility. That berth only will exist if Jordan Cove builds its export facility.

‘Without (Jordan Cove), there is no Project Effectuate,” said Elise Hamner, spokeswoman for the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay. ‘It makes sense to launch the devices from Coos Bay. We’re a deep draft harbor and we’re in the perfect spot.”

Principle Power already has spoken with fishermen and other ocean user groups about the best location for the offshore wind site, Banister said.

During permitting, there will be more opportunity for public outreach.

The Energy Department awarded six additional grants to projects in Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Virginia, as part of an effort to promote the offshore wind industry in the United States.

Only four of the companies will receive additional grant support for installation.