In light of the lack of progress at Copenhagen’s Climate Change conference and the glacial pace of Congress to enact meaningful legislation, many states and municipalities are forging ahead to reduce green house gases and CO2 levels. As an example, Oregon is planning two noteworthy renewable energy projects: the world’s largest wind farm and the first commercial-scale wave energy station in North America.
One reason for the activity in Oregon is California’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) which has created greater demand for clean energy production. The RPS “requires electric corporations to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources by at least 1 percent of their retail sales annually, until they reach 20 percent by 2010.” As a result, California utilities are looking to their neighboring states for additional clean energy sources.
world’s largest wind farm
Wind farms are nothing new, but the Shepherd’s Flat project near Arlington, Ore., is notable because of its size. The wind farm is expected to cost $2 billion and generate 845 megawatts of clean renewable energy – enough to power 235,000 American homes.
GreenBiz.com reported that Southern California Edison signed three 20-year power purchase agreements to receive power output from the Shepherds Flat project. The Oregon wind farm will have the capacity to generate 2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year, which would, according to GreenBiz.com, “represent more than one-tenth of Southern California Edison’s overall renewable energy portfolio.”
Keep in mind that Edison serves mostly southern and central California, and the power it’s buying from Oregon isn’t necessarily going to be used for its own customers. The electricity has to get to Southern California, and the largest north-south transmission lines are already pretty jammed. More likely, Edison will swap that power with someone else.
Regardless of who ends up using the power, the 30-square-mile wind project is expected to create hundreds of jobs and add $16 million per year to Oregon’s economy. An estimated 400 workers would be hired to help build the project, and the finished facility would employ 35. It is expected to go online in 2012.
harnessing wave power in coos bay
Oregon’s not stopping at wind power, they’re also bravely hoping to develop the first commercial-scale wave energy station in Coos Bay. Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) is working with Oregon-based Iron Works to build the first of ten buoys, once completed they will sit two and a half miles off the coast. During the pilot stage of the program near Reedsport, Ore., the wave energy park will feed 1.5 megawatts of electricity into the grid. The project’s energy is enough to power 375 homes and will save 2,110 tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to OPT. If all goes well, then a much larger wave park of about 200 buoys would be installed in Coos Bay.
The wave power park has a long way to go before it can be deemed a viable alternative. Of the many challenges, the first is the price of the power. As of September, the U.S. Department of Energy sites the national average cost of energy across all sectors (residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation) at just above 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. OPT’s CEO Mark Draper told the New York Times he plans to sell the power generated from the Reedsport station for 15 cents per kilowatt-hour. The company also faces resistance from fisherman and environmentalists, who oppose the installation of the wave-power devices. Finally, there is no guarantee the devices will withstand the destructive power of the ocean. Finavera, a Canadian company, had one of its wave-power devices sink off the Oregon coast two years ago.
While wave-producing energy certainly has a long way to go, wind and solar are gaining traction around the world. The costs are coming down and there is a growing demand for clean energy. The question is will we be able to convert over from coal and other climate-damaging sources before it’s too late?
Is clean energy ready to take the lead? Should the cost of coal and other carbon emitting sources should be increased to account for their full toll on our planet. What’s your suggestion on how best to supply our ever-increasing need for energy while not leaving our children a damaged planet?