February 18, 2014
WASHINGTON — The mighty winds that blow through Texas, Oklahoma and elsewhere in the United States aren’t as mighty or as consistent as the gusts out in the oceans.
But 13 years after the nation’s first offshore wind park was envisioned in Nantucket Sound, this plentiful source of renewable energy has yet to produce a kilowatt of utility power.
Now a Seattle company hopes to join that race by harnessing some of the fiercest winds off the Pacific Coast. Earlier this month, Principle Power got a nod from the U.S. Department of the Interior to proceed with its application to lease 15 square miles of federal waters near Coos Bay, Ore.
Principle’s $200 million WindFloat 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.
That novel design tackles perhaps the biggest reason why wind parks have yet to make a foray in the Pacific — a steep drop in the continental shelf that makes the waters too deep to secure fixed-bottom turbines economically.
Going far offshore also helps neutralize concerns about noise, harm to birds and aesthetic blight that sometimes buffet inland wind projects.