Offshore Wind Development in Oregon: A Status Report
State and federal officials are working to open waters off of the state of Oregon to offshore wind development. On February 25, 2022, the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) identified three areas with high wind potential in federal waters off the coast of Oregon (Call Areas). Competitive leasing auctions are planned to begin in 2023.
What is the status of offshore wind development in Oregon?
BOEM and Oregon began planning for offshore wind development in September 2019, through an Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force. In January 2022, the Task Force released a Data Gathering and Engagement Summary Report which drew upon more than two years of stakeholder meetings with local governments, tribal associations, fishing industry representatives, and other community groups. The announcement of the three “Call Areas” establishes a target date of late 2023 to hold auctions for parcels of submerged land within the proposed Call Areas.
What is a Call for Information and Nomination, and which Proposed Call Areas are under consideration in Oregon?
BOEM issues a Call for Information and Nomination to request public comments about areas under consideration for wind energy development. It also requests that developers communicate their interest in leasing particular parts of proposed Call Areas. Through such a Call, which has not yet been formally published for Oregon, BOEM seeks to learn which areas offer the highest potential for commercial offshore wind development and those that should not be developed because of risks to the environment, wildlife, ocean users, or other stakeholders.
The three proposed Call Areas that BOEM identified for Oregon begin 13.8 miles off the coast of southern and central Oregon near the towns of Brookings, Bandon, and Coos Bay.
The northern-most proposed Call Areas are situated near the Fairview and Wendson substations, which would offer developers the ability to connect power generated by offshore wind turbines to the onshore grid. With additional investment, the deep-draft port in Coos Bay could potentially host an offshore wind integration facility for component manufacturing and direct loading of vessels used to install and maintain area turbines.
The depth of the proposed Call Area, up to 1,300 meters, would require floating, rather than bottom-fixed, turbines, which is the case for virtually all offshore wind development off the Pacific Coast. Floating turbine platforms anchor to the seabed using cables, whereas the foundations of bottom-fixed turbines installed along the East Coast are drilled directly into the outer continental shelf. Floating wind turbine technology has not yet reached full commercialization; few such facilities currently operate worldwide, but the technology is developing quickly. A significant advantage of floating wind turbines is that they can be installed farther offshore, reducing impacts on viewsheds and benefiting from the stronger winds typically found in deeper ocean areas. Floating wind turbines are also typically manufactured on land before being towed for installation, which can offer cost savings. Floating offshore wind farms in Oregon would be among the first in U.S. waters, creating both risk and opportunity.
What will happen next?
By the end of 2022, BOEM plans to choose which portions of the three proposed Call Areas, totaling 2,181 square miles overall, to designate as smaller Wind Energy Areas (WEAs). Upon designation, WEAs next undergo an environmental assessment of the impacts of surveying the area for potential development, not those arising from actual development, which occurs at a later stage. Once the environmental assessment for the WEAs is complete, BOEM will initiate the leasing process, most likely by seeking bids via a competitive auction.
Potential conflicts with wildlife and ocean users have been identified within the proposed Oregon Call Areas. They are situated within the critical habitat or migration routes of various species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including humpback and gray whales, leatherback sea turtles, and marbled murrelets. The Call Areas also overlap with active fishing areas about which groups representing the fishing industry have voiced concerns. Such groups may therefore ultimately pursue litigation to challenge further steps toward any future development in the Call Areas, as has occurred on the East Coast.
Because both federal agencies and the state have announced their intent to vigorously pursue offshore wind development off the Oregon coast and intergovernmental efforts to develop such resources are well underway, interested stakeholders are encouraged to respond to BOEM’s Call for Information once formally published and to engage with the separate Floating Offshore Wind study the Oregon Department of Energy is leading. Although challenges exist for the nascent offshore wind industry in Oregon, with the necessary due diligence, planning, and expertise, we believe they may be overcome and that the future looks promising for fulfilling many, if not all, of the goals the U.S. and Oregon have set.
 Presentation at BOEM Oregon Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force Meeting, Feb. 25, 2022, at 34, https://www.boem.gov/sites/default/files/documents/renewable-energy/state-activities/BOEM%20OR%20TF%20Meeting%20Presentation.pdf [hereinafter “Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force Meeting”].
 Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and State of Oregon, Data Gathering and Engagement Summary Report (Jan. 2022), https://www.boem.gov/sites/default/files/documents//Data%20Gathering%20and%20Engagement%20Report%20OR%20OSW%20Energy%20Planning%20January%202022.pdf.
 Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force Meeting at 61.
Coos Bay Offshore Wind Port Infrastructure Study (Feb. 2022), https://simplybluegroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Coos-Bay-Offshore-Port-Infrastructure-Study-Final-Technical-Report.pdf.
 Global Wind Energy Council, Floating Offshore Wind – A Global Opportunity (Mar. 2022), https://gwec.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/GWEC-Report-Floating-Offshore-Wind-A-Global-Opportunity.pdf (estimating that, by 2026, annual floating offshore wind installations will surpass one gigawatt per year, a milestone reached by fixed-bottom offshore wind in 2010).
 BOEM is also pursuing offshore wind development off the coast of California, where floating wind turbines are expected to be necessary. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Offshore Wind Leasing Path Forward 2021-2025, https://www.boem.gov/sites/default/files/documents/renewable-energy/state-activities/OSW-Proposed-Leasing-Schedule.pdf; California State Lands Commission, Offshore Wind Applications in State Waters (Oct. 22, 2021), https://www.slc.ca.gov/renewable-energy/offshore-wind-applications/.
 Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force Meeting at 43-46.
 Southern Oregon Ocean Resources Coalition, Offshore Wind Energy Plan Raises Concerns (Feb. 24, 2022), https://soorc.org/2022/02/west-coast-offshore-wind-call-area-announcement-raises-concerns/.
 Colin Young, Fishing coalition sues fed agencies over Vineyard Wind Project, WBUR (Feb. 1, 2022), https://www.wbur.org/news/2022/02/01/vineyard-wind-fishing-industry-coalition-federal-envrionmental-regulations-suit; Mary Serreze, R.I. commercial fishers join anti-Vineyard Wind lawsuit, Providence Business Journal (Dec. 23, 2021), https://www.bizjournals.com/rhodeisland/news/2021/12/23/ri-commercial-fishers-join-vineyard-wind-lawsuit.html.
 This process aims to provide the state of Oregon with additional information regarding the benefits and challenges of meeting the state’s goal of developing three-gigawatts by 2030, a target set by H.B. 3375. Public meetings are ongoing, and the final report must be submitted to the Oregon Legislature by September 2022. See Oregon Department of Energy, Floating Offshore Wind Study: Benefits & Challenges for Oregon, https://www.oregon.gov/energy/energy-oregon/Pages/fosw.aspx; Oregon Department of Energy, ODOE Floating Offshore Wind Study (Dec. 2021), https://www.oregon.gov/energy/Data-and-Reports/Documents/2021-FOSW-Study-Two-Pager.pdf.