All that talk about wind energy isn’t just a bunch of hot air. According to the US Energy Information Administration, wind energy was responsible for about 42% of all renewable electricity generated in 2019, which equals 7% of all electricity generated that year. Continued growth is on the horizon due to low energy production costs and its clean footprint.
In Oregon, most of our wind energy is produced on the wide-open plateaus along the Columbia River. Take a drive along I-84 east of Portland, and you’ll see the towering turbines peacefully spinning on both sides of the river. Stop and get out of your car and you’re likely to feel the power of the winds whip through your hair. As of 2018, there were 44 operating facilities in Oregon providing an overall capacity of 3,383 MW. 13 of those facilities are sizable and contribute to nearly 70% of the total capacity.
Another location in Oregon that experiences exceptionally strong winds is the Coast. While it may be difficult to construct turbines along the more treacherous terrain of the coastline itself, an opportunity exists to construct off-shore turbine farms (OSW).
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management produced a report of a cost-benefit analysis they performed on just such a venture. Their work revealed a few key facts:
- The Oregon Coast Range presents challenges for transportation of energy to inland areas. There are a limited number of “pipelines” crossing the mountains that currently create electricity and Internet connectivity limitations between coastal towns and the inland regions of the state. While OSW may increase the resilience of powering coastal communities, it is not easy to transport power to the rest of the State.
- While Washington and California both have goals to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045, Oregon’s goal is only 50% by 2040. With a lower goal to achieve, the demand–and thus the price–of clean energy is lower in Oregon than our neighboring states. This means it will take greater production to create enough revenue to make the investment worthwhile.
With all factors considered, the Bureau concluded OSW investments would provide significant benefits to Oregon. In fact, they estimate that by producing an optimal 3 GW of power, OSW would create an annual cost savings of nearly $86 million associated with reduced fossil fuel use and by the reduction of carbon emissions.
Another benefit of OSW would be serving as a supplement to wind farms along the Columbia River. One challenge with wind energy is that wind is not consistent. During times when the air is more still, the required energy must be pulled from another source. For energy production along the Columbia River, those sources are the hydroelectric dams. With the implementation of OSW, these offshore turbines could provide the supplementary energy needed and reduce our dependency on hydropower.
Want to learn more about emerging clean energy initiatives in Oregon? Come visit us at www.roguevalleycleancities.org. Together, we can keep our communities clean for generations to come! The Rogue Valley Clean Cities’ mission is to promote and educate on alternate fuels, seek to decrease dependency on petroleum, and promote clean air and water in the Rogue Valley via alternate fuels. Contact us today for more information!