Newport City Councilman and green energy advocate Mark Saelens pitched the Lincoln County Commission this week on an ambitious plan to put wind energy on Oregon’s Green Energy radar.
The plan starts out with gathering wind data. Like, how strong does the wind blow along the coast, during what season and for how long? Saelens told county commissioners Bill Hall and Terry Thompson that a big trust fund has been set up for green energy production, aptly named the Energy Trust. He said the trust is willing to pay half the $40,000 cost to gather wind energy data over a year’s period – longer probably, says Saelens who agreed with Thompson that a year is not long enough to produce data we can have confidence in.
In addition to the “year +” testing period for wind velocity and duration, studies on wind turbine impacts on migrating birds will have to be done along with coming up with a financial analysis to ascertain whether wind turbines can even come close to penciling out.
Saelens pointed out that setting up a brand new tower bristling with meteorological instruments could easily run $70,000. But he quickly added that he has found a used tower still stuck in the ground near Medford that’s for sale for a dollar. One dollar. Saelens said he could acquire the tower, refurbish some of the weather data instruments and have it ready to be transplanted to a site north of Thompson’s transfer station at the top of NE Avery and east of NE Avery.
It’s land owned by the city of Newport. So they’d have to talk with the Newport City Council about it. Saelens is a Newport City Councilor who quickly pointed out the city planning commission has already reviewed the idea…admittedly some time back. But he believes the research data alone is worth the money and time it’ll take to get the data needed in order to make way for wind turbines in that area if the study comes out pointing in that direction.
Saelens and Commission Chair Terry Thompson appeared to agree that even if the site doesn’t produce results that would make wind turbines in the area feasible, they’d still get good research data and would no doubt draw some attention from Hatfield Marine Science Center – even NOAA maybe.
There was also references made to wind turbines providing local energy generation if the Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake wipes out the coast’s electrical service. The turbines would be ground zero for emergency communications and would attract disaster assessment and coordinated clean up headquarters during the coast’s recovery from “the big one.”
The commissioners gave the idea their tentative blessing. Tentative because County Counsel Wayne Belmont, wearing his county manager hat, said he’d have to do some juggling of the county’s budget to find the $20,000 required for the used tower, its installation out NE Avery along with the instruments perched on it.
Next step is to contact Newport City Hall and get those folks on board – if they’re interested. Again Commission Chair Thompson said even if the assessment project doesn’t produce data that would trigger the installation of a wind farm, the research data acquired for $30 to $40,000 would be well worth it. Whatever funds the project require, the state’s Energy Trust will pay half.