West Coast Organization Channels Energy for Marine Renewables

A small nonprofit based in Portland, Ore. is helping to place the Pacific Region of the United States – comprised of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii – on the map as a vibrant destination for ocean renewable energy research and development.

Available offshore wind, wave, and tidal resources offer significant opportunity for states in the Pacific Region to meet their renewable energy targets. Yet, actually tapping into the region’s rich, coastal carbon-free energy sources is not without its challenges. The Pacific Ocean Energy Trust (POET) is advancing solutions for the responsible development of ocean renewable energy in the Pacific Region, grounded in more than ten years of experience.

The data indicate that ocean energy resources along the Pacific are plentiful. After accounting for technical and environmental exclusion areas, developable offshore wind resources in the Pacific could produce 869 terawatt hours of energy (TWh) per year, based on a 2016 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Recoverable energy from wave resources along the West Coast could produce up to 250 TWh of wave resources based on a 2011 report from the Electric Power Research Institute.

Policy makers in the Pacific are ramping up renewable energy goals. In September 2018, California committed to a carbon-free electricity supply by 2045, and in 2017, Hawaii was the first state to set a 100% renewables target. However, there are no offshore wind, wave, or tidal arrays in the Pacific Region at present, and deploying marine renewables is associated with a range of technical, social and economic, environmental, political, regulatory, permitting/consenting, stakeholder, and other challenges.

As early as 2006, POET recognized the many barriers for ocean renewables. POET initially focused on advocating for the responsible development of wave energy in Oregon – a state with tremendous ocean energy resource – under its original title, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET). As interest in the ocean renewables sector expanded across the Pacific Region, including for offshore wind and tidal, OWET realized the opportunity to advance all types of ocean renewables and expanded to become POET.

Key focus areas for POET include: (1) advocating for coordinated and efficient federal, state, and local policies and regulations to responsibly advance ocean renewable energy; (2) working with regional utilities to help build familiarity and acceptance of ocean renewable energy, and facilitate grid integration; (3) creating links between stakeholder groups with shared interests and identifying broad ocean renewable energy industry priorities; and (4) increasing public support for ocean renewable energy development. POET particularly pursues these initiatives by hosting conferences, summits, and workshops.  On Sept. 19th, 2018, POET wrapped up its 13th annual event held in Portland, Oreg. – the Ocean Renewable Energy Conference (OREC). This year’s conference drew more than 200 registrants from across the country and internationally. Conference speakers included representatives from academia, national laboratories, utilities, the renewables industry and private sector, NGOs, and government on the local, state, and federal levels.

OREC 2018 covered numerous topics relevant to all ocean renewable sectors and recent industry news. Attendees learned, for instance, of steps that can be taken to address environmental impacts of ocean renewables, risk perception, and regional coordination to reach California’s 100% renewable energy target. A featured panel discussed the growing contribution of the ocean renewables industry to the “blue economy,” or the maritime industry that comprises a significant slice of many state and local economies in the Pacific Region. In San Diego, Calif., for instance, the maritime industry supports more than 46,000 jobs and brings in more than $14 billion a year. Necy Sumait, the Chief of the Renewable Energy Section of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Pacific Region, addressed BOEM’s latest initiative for offshore wind energy development. On Sept. 17, 2018 for the first time, BOEM released four areas located on the West Coast that “Call for Information and Nominations.” The announcement of call areas is a critical step in the planning and analysis phase for the potential leasing of ocean parcels for renewable energy development in the Pacific Region. OREC 2018 ended with a session on the common challenges and opportunities for the marine hydrokinetic and offshore wind sectors. Dr. Gareth Davies, Managing Director of Aquatera Ltd., a company that provides environmental expertise and operational support for offshore and coastal activities, noted several potential benefits of collaboration within the ocean renewables sector. Some examples include, a reduced footprint on the marine environment, saving money, attracting investment and political support, and increasing the chances of success.

In addition to the annual Ocean Renewable Energy Conference, POET hosted its second annual offshore wind energy conference in Sacramento, Calif. – the California Offshore Wind Industry Summit (COWIS) – in March 2018. With strong policy support for renewables, and an ample coastal population and offshore wind resources, California is proving to be an attractive market for offshore wind. Through COWIS, POET brings together researchers, policy-makers, developers, and others for the responsible development of offshore wind energy in California.

Workshops are also an important part of POET’s efforts to reduce the risk and uncertainty of ocean renewable project permitting. COWIS 2018 and OREC 2016 and 2017, included workshops on environmental regulations for offshore wind energy and marine hydrokinetic energy. As data on the interactions between ocean renewables and the marine environment improves, these workshops are one way in which POET provides stakeholders and regulators with the latest science and research.

To ensure the responsible and timely development of clean, ocean renewable energy, POET looks forward to building on the foundations laid over the years. POET anticipates expanding its workshops to regions that show promise for ocean energy development, providing additional value to the industry and the many important stakeholders. With time, proper support, and dedication, POET hopes that its efforts will contribute to a thriving ocean renewables sector in the Pacific region, nationally, and globally, contributing to broader environmental, economic, leadership, and carbon reduction goals.

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