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The U.S. Department of the Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has given the green light for Principle Power Inc. to submit a formal plan to build a 30 MW pilot project using floating wind turbine technology offshore Coos Bay, Ore.

"Today's announcement is consistent with President [Barack] Obama's commitment to take actions that will create jobs and develop clean, domestic energy that powers our economy," says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. "This pioneering project would demonstrate floating wind turbine technology capable of tapping the rich wind energy resources in deep waters offshore Oregon. As we look to broaden our nation's energy portfolio, the innovative technology and its future application hold great promise along the West Coast and Hawaii."

Citing statistics from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the DOI says the West Coast holds an offshore capability of more than 800 GW of wind energy potential, which is equivalent to more than three quarters of the nation's entire power generation capacity. Total U.S. deepwater wind energy resource potential is estimated to be nearly 2,000 GW, the department adds.

Principle Power Inc. will seek to site its project within a 15 square-mile proposed lease area. The DOI says the project is designed to generate electricity from five floating "WindFloat" units, each equipped with a 6 MW offshore wind turbine. Sited in about 1,400 feet of water, the facility would be the first offshore wind project proposed in federal waters off the West Coast.

Principle Power, which received $4 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding for its demonstration project, submitted an unsolicited request to BOEM for a commercial wind energy lease in May 2013. As an initial step in the leasing process, BOEM issued a request for interest (RFI) in the Federal Register to determine whether there were other developers interested in constructing wind facilities in the same area. There were not.

Under the noncompetitive process for which Principle Power qualified, the company may now submit a plan for the proposed lease area to BOEM. BOEM will then complete a National Environmental Policy Act analysis, which includes opportunity for public comment, before making any final decision on lease issuance and plan approval.

"The WindFloat Pacific project is the latest in a series of lease initiatives BOEM has undertaken to move forward offshore wind energy development,” says BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “On the Atlantic Coast, the five commercial project leases we've issued, if fully developed, could generate enough renewable energy to power 1.4 million homes." 

BOEM has issued two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The DOI says the competitive lease sales generated about $5.4 million in high bids for about 277,550 acres on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. The department also notes additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts are expected this year.



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