Two sets of plans on how to divide up the Oregon Coast for wave energy devices have been forwarded to the state Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) for their review and decision. That complicated and long-awaited ruling is expected to come after day-long testimony before the commission in Salem on Thursday, January 24th.
The five year process has involved analysis of the Oregon Territorial Sea, which is measured from the beach out three miles, from Astoria to the state line with California. The planning is to help state agencies determine where wave energy generators might be placed to send their high voltage energy to onshore power stations which then send the energy to the state’s electrical grid.
From the beginning, the planning was controversial but then toward the end it heated up considerably among commercial and charter fishermen who were being asked by the wave energy industry and the state to give up lucrative fishing grounds to make room for these ocean power stations. Coastal residents also chimed in that they don’t want these stations spoiling their daytime and nighttime (equipment lights) views of the ocean. Fishermen also claim their economic contribution to the coastal economy far outweighs any contribution by wave energy devices. Others point to the fact that current devices produce only very expensive power, many times the rate that most coastal residents pay on their monthly electric bills which implies heavy federal or state subsidies for the power they generate.
After a great deal of arm wrestling, chin rubbing and frustration, coastal fishermen named a number of areas along the coast, within three miles of shore, that they could offer up for placement of wave energy devices. Those recommended for approved by the Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) are sites off Lakeside, Reedsport, Newport (energy device testing only), and off Camp Rilea, near Astoria. OPAC also recommended sites off Pacific City and Netarts be dropped. However, another committee with heavier representation by the wave energy industry recommended a longer list of sites.
LCDC’s decision on the 24th may not be the final stop for the controversy. If it continues to swirl, it wouldn’t surprise many who were involved in the process that the state legislature might get involved. There is a lot at stake. Wave energy has been developing for over 25 years and yet its power remains very expensive. Critics contend that heavy government subsidies will be required to make the power “affordable.”
Those close to the issue also point out that regardless of which sites are approved, it will be years before wave energy manufacturers can apply for a permit to place them offshore, either on the surface or on the sea floor. But even then, the LCDC will be asked on January 24th by OPAC to show strong evidence that whatever wave energy company is seeking a permit for their device, the device should be proven economically viable and represents state of the art performance.
There are many news reports in both the U.S. and foreign news media that both wave energy and wind power devices continue to produce only high cost power that requires heavy taxpayer subsidies before their electricity can be made “affordable” on the open market. The recent “Fiscal Cliff” bill signed by President Obama extends wind energy tax credits and subsidies for only one more year due to growing opposition to spending more taxpayer dollars on an energy source whose power is simply too expensive. Other “green energy” devices like solar panels and wave energy devices are assured corporate tax credits through 2016, according to news reports.
Whatever Territorial Sea Plan LCDC adopts, federal agencies that control the ocean from three miles out to 12 miles out, are watching these issues very closely. These agencies will also be receiving permit applications from wind and wave energy manufacturers which will need big electrical cables to transfer their generated power to the beach and into the national grid. Presumably these devices farther out in federally controlled waters will tap into whatever near-shore power lines that state-approved wave energy stations have already installed.
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