Developer pushes for Washington’s first floating offshore wind farm off the Olympic Peninsula

Nicholas Turner/The Seattle Times

Offshore wind power on the Pacific Ocean has long been considered a pipe dream due to the steep decline along the edges of its continental shelf.

But floating wind turbines could change that.

Trident Winds, a Seattle-based wind energy developer, submitted an unsolicited lease application Monday to the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management to build a floating offshore wind farm — the state’s first — about 43 miles offshore. from the Olympic Peninsula, near Grays Port.

The proposed site – dubbed the Olympic Wind Project – would provide 2,000 megawatts of clean energy to 800,000 homes, according to the developer. If all goes well for the company, construction would begin in 2028 and the wind farm would become operational in 2030.

After reviewing the application, the office might choose to invite other developers to compete for the site by issuing a request for interest, in which case the whole process will become competitive, as was the case in California where Trident Wind requested a lease for a similar site. project in 2016.

“The reason we started talking about ocean wind now and not 20 years ago – and not at the same time the East Coast started talking about ocean wind in the early 2000s – is because we didn’t have the technology,” said Alla Weinstein, founder and CEO of Trident Winds. In 2017, she was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council.

Weinstein said it was unclear how many turbines could be built at the site because the technology is maturing so quickly. In 2016, the industry was talking about 8-megawatt turbines, she said, but now it’s looking at 15-megawatt turbines.

Principle Power – which was also founded and formerly run by Weinstein – submitted an unsolicited lease request for a wind farm off Oregon in 2013, but the project failed to materialize after negotiations failed on the purchasing power agreement with the state and the federal government.

Until recently, offshore wind turbines were most often built atop massive steel pillars or other structures that extended up to 100 feet into the ocean floor in some places up to 200 feet. to others.

The use of this technique on the Pacific coast of the United States was impossible due to the sudden and deep fall of the continental shelf, which can reach a depth of more than 600 feet along California, Oregon and Washington.

That is, until recently, when new technologies made it possible to install wind turbines on floating platforms attached to the ocean floor that could be erected on land and towed out to sea.

Offshore wind farms have been gaining momentum on the East Coast, but the floating sites proposed by Trident Winds – the Olympic Wind project in Washington and the Castle Wind project in California – would dwarf anything seen elsewhere in the country. .

Deep waters and military hesitation have delayed several offshore wind projects on the west coast. But in May 2021, the Navy pulled back to allow the development of commercial offshore wind farms in two areas of Morro Bay and the Humboldt Coast in central and northern California, respectively.

President Joe Biden has pushed aggressively for wind power on the West Coast as part of the country’s bid to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change by eliminating net fossil fuel emissions. The decision to open the door to wind farms in California followed the Biden administration’s approval a few weeks earlier to build the country’s first commercial wind farm near the Massachusetts coast.

As gas and oil prices soar and renewable energy costs continue to fall, floating offshore wind power could hold promise for the windswept waters off the Washington coast.

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