“How is Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative involved with floating offshore wind development (FOSW)?” That is a recurring question I’ve been asked this year. The short answer is, CCEC is not involved in FOSW development today. However, CCEC is the electric utility on the south coast, so we will be affected when FOSW moves beyond the study phase.
Development of Oregon’s offshore wind resource is much bigger than CCEC, which has an average system load of 40 megawatts. In October 2019, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory reported Oregon’s available ocean wind resource is 62 gigawatts. That’s 1,550 times bigger than CCEC’s average load. Also, CCEC’s electricity is more than 95% renewable and carbon-free, so we are not seeking to replace fossil fuel energy, as are investor-owned utilities in the state. NREL’s 2019 report forecasts FOSW energy would cost $95 to $156 per megawatt-hour in the early years of development. Compare that to CCEC’s wholesale energy cost today of about $40 per MWh.
That doesn’t mean CCEC is not interested in FOSW. It has the potential for major impacts in Coos and Curry counties. In 2021, Oregon House Bill 3375 directed the Oregon Department of Energy to study the benefits and challenges of integrating up to 3 GW of FOSW into Oregon’s electric grid by 2030. ODOE issued its
findings this September.
For perspective, the four lower Snake River dams produce about 1 GW, as does the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power plant in central Washington. Construction, operation and maintenance of 3 GW of FOSW infrastructure would bring economic growth to the south coast region. CCEC will need to serve the new growth and could take part in delivering generated wind energy inland to the load centers where it will be used.
ODOE reported key benefits and challenges related to FOSW development, including:
Today, there is no timeline for floating offshore wind development on the south Oregon coast. Whether it happens in three years or 10 years, we will all experience the benefits and challenges of FOSW in some way.