The Lincoln County Commission last week awarded $20,000 as a grant to put up a tower with instruments to gauge local wind velocities with an eye to determine whether on-shore wind power turbines might work along the Oregon Coast.
The Energy Trust of Oregon is willing to pay half the cost of moving a wind-research tower from a spot in southern Oregon, to the northern end of Newport where it can gauge whether enough wind is generated to make permanent wind turbines worthwhile. County Sustainability Coordinator Mark Saelens told News Lincoln County that “it doesn’t mean wind turbines will start popping like rows of corn on the coast, rather it’s strictly for research to ascertain whether they’d even be economical to invest in.” Wind power is notoriously expensive, but investors keep putting up wind turbines because of the huge subsidies the federal government pays them, to keep the wind industry moving on a path toward affordability. So far it’s been a very slow journey.
In putting up the other half of the $40,000 to relocate the research tower, County Commission Chairman Terry Thompson said “For $20,000 we’re going to get some really valuable data on wind energy potential along the coast. He, like Saelens, doesn’t predict the coast being covered with, what many call, the “unsightly” turbines, but that there is value in having this data blended with information being collected offshore by wind energy researchers which is currently underway.
Both Thompson and Saelens acknowledged that in the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, or even one not so strong, coastal communities will be utterly without power after everybody’s batteries go dead. He said it would be good to learn how feasible it would be to have wind turbines provide emergency power for those first few weeks before disaster responders can show up with portable power generators to help communities get back on their feet.
There is also the issue of how fast battery technology is progressing – so much so – that batteries, hundreds of feet across, will soon be able to store huge amounts of energy generated by wind turbines. That energy could be a life saver for medical, law enforcement and other vital services until the power grid is restored – which could take many months, according to experts.
Saelens also said that communities around the country are using wind power as a source of revenue for local governments, private companies and non-profit agencies.
Saelens says he hopes to have the research tower sited and erected in the next two or three months. There are two sites they’re looking at – both north of the old Newport Landfill, just north of Agate Beach on the east side of Highway 101.