Wave energy devices
HMSC courtesy graphic
State officials have made a lot of coastal government officials and even more commercial and recreation fishermen angry at how the final decisions were made to allocate portions of Oregon’s offshore seas and seabeds for wave energy devices; even if their placements are years away.
The Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC), meeting in Salem Thursday, designated up to 3% of Oregon’s offshore coastal areas for wave energy placement out three miles, either on the surface of the ocean, or on the bottom. Either way, complain fishermen, they lose very productive fishing grounds to an industry that hasn’t produced a single working wave energy device that can produce electricity for anything near what customers are paying today. In fact, estimates show local consumer power bills would have to rise several fold for wave energy companies to even begin to turn a profit. Wind energy turbines up the Columbia Gorge produce very expensive energy themselves but still turn a profit thanks to huge federal subsidies that soften the blow to those who want to use green energy, living mainly in California.
Fishermen and other stakeholders spent five years trying to minimize the loss of fishing grounds as they helped the state put together a plan to place offshore wave energy devices in the water, up to three miles out. Lincoln County Commissioner and local commercial fisherman Terry Thompson said they thought they had a good list of sites that could be set aside for green energy but LCDC still withdrew a large area of lucrative fishing grounds off the Nestucca River near Pacific City. Thompson said it proves that five years of cooperation could be thrown out the window by LCDC staff which recommended an area totally opposed by the fishing community. LCDC staff said the wave energy industry needs shallow near-shore sites for “on the bottom” energy generating devices and that the site near Pacific City filled the bill even if it does remove valuable fishing grounds. Staff contends the loss is not that bad based on the value for green energy.
Thompson said, “If LCDC staff can ignore years of coastal community well-studied recommendations outlining where those devices ought to be placed, then what’s to stop them from doing it again, and again? We feel betrayed.” Thompson said the income from wave energy generation will benefit only a small number of investors and manufacturers, none of whom work or live on the coast. “We’ll be sacrificing a substantial portion of our fishing economy for what will be a few paltry maintenance jobs required to keep the devices running. It’s a very bad deal for the coast,” he said.
Thompson pointed out that Oregon, like other states, are under immense federal pressure to find sites that can generate renewable energy to reduce the country’s fossil fuel contribution to global climate change. But Thompson added that wave energy device manufacturers still have not produced surface or underwater devices that electric customers can afford to tap into. “It’s going to take millions and millions of taxpayer subsidies to make the power produced by these devices to come even close to being affordable,” Thompson said. Many green energy critics contend that wind and wave energy generators look good in pretty pictures and color illustrations, but they look horrible on any balance sheet.
Thompson said that thankfully other sites targeted for wave energy devices by coastal communities were supported by LCDC staff which included areas off Reedsport, Lakeside and Camp Rilea. A site several miles west-southwest from the mouth of the Yaquina River, off of Newport, was designated purely as a wave energy testing station. To the relief of the Port of Coos Bay and their commercial fishing fleet, LCDC staff did not include the Langlois area on the list of sites deemed suitable for energy device placement. Langlois is a highly prized commercial fishing area.
Thompson said what angers commercial and recreation fishermen is the fact that LCDC appears to be ignoring state law that requires regulators to uphold the integrity of Oregon’s fishing industry – that fishing grounds are to be protected for not only environmental reasons but for the economic foundation fishing represents for the entire Oregon Coast – a $300 million a year industry. Thompson and others wonder aloud whether the state is prepared to sacrifice the coast’s lifesblood on speculative plans for an energy industry that hasn’t even proven itself profitable without massive taxpayer subsidies. They also cite threats to the tourist industry if the coast line is “junked up” with wave energy devices that would be visible from shore by day and be covered with lights at night.
Thompson says the fight may not be over in that the state legislature might be convinced to modify or overturn LCDC’s version of their so-called Territorial Sea Plan.
Thompson says nobody is predicting that energy devices will start showing up anytime soon – “it could be many years from now,” he said, “but it doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. This isn’t over.”
GOVERNOR KITZHABER CLAIMS NEW WAVE ENERGY PLAN PROTECTS FISHERIES, RECREATION AND GREEN ENERGY SITES
From Governor Kitzhaber’s Office
(Salem, OR) — Governor Kitzhaber today thanked the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission for moving forward on a decision to adopt an amendment to Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan. LCDC members approved the amendment, which will allow for future siting of marine renewable energy development projects, at an all-day public meeting yesterday, January 24.
“Oregon has long been a leader in renewable energy development, and energy issues will have the single greatest impact on Oregon in the coming decade,” said Governor Kitzhaber. “This balanced proposal shows Oregon can thoughtfully support this emerging and promising industry while protecting our coastal communities’ quality of life, our commercial and recreational fisheries, and a coastline that all Oregonians treasure.”
With the LCDC’s decision, Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan now guides the siting of wave energy and other forms of marine renewable energy to areas that pose the least conflict with existing ocean uses and natural resources. The Territorial Sea Plan amendment adopted by LCDC identifies four “Renewable Energy Suitability Study Areas” where initial development of wave energy will be encouraged. When specific projects are proposed, developers will have to show that they will meet standards for protecting ecological resources, fishing and other existing uses, and coastal views. Marine renewable energy developers can also seek approval for projects in other areas off Oregon’s coast, but will have to meet more stringent standards.
Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan covers state waters extending three miles out from the shoreline. The plan was developed over more than three years, with dozens of public meetings along the coast. LCDC’s decision was informed by the recommendations of the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council, which advises the Governor on ocean issues, and a committee appointed by LCDC to represent a wide range of interests on Oregon’s coast.
“The oceans will play an important role in the next generation of clean energy development,” said Lisa Schwartz, Director of the Oregon Department of Energy. “The Governor’s 10-Year Energy Action Plan identified responsibly-sited wave energy as having the potential to help power Oregon coastal communities.”
Oregon has invested more than $10 million in the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, created by the Oregon Innovation Council, to fund research and other projects to accelerate the development of wave power in Oregon. The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University deployed the first wave energy test system in the United States off Newport, and earlier this month announced it will site a larger, grid-connected testing facility in federal waters off Newport. This spring, Ocean Power Technologies plans to deploy the first federally-licensed commercial wave energy device off Reedsport.
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