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SITING WAVE ENERGY ON THE OREGON COAST: THE OREGON TERRITORIAL SEA PLAN AND SITING ANALYSIS TOOLS
Over the last four years, the State of Oregon, led by the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD), has worked to address this management challenge by updating its existing Territorial Sea Plan (TSP) to include wave energy siting considerations. The process has provided an important opportunity for a full accounting of existing uses within the territorial sea (state marine waters from 0-3 miles offshore). However, due to planning constraints of the TSP and Oregon’s existing Statewide Planning Goal 19 (which serves to protect existing ocean uses and resources), the update process has not provided an opportunity for a full discussion of present and future marine renewable energy values, opportunities and industry needs. Through interviews with Oregon’s planning and wave energy leadership, this article describes the Oregon TSP update process and discusses how that process has considered marine renewable energy (primarily wave energy), a new use of space in an already crowded sea. It also describes information products being used to map Oregon’s coastal resources, as well as other tools under development in Oregon to support siting decisions.
The Oregon Wave Energy Opportunity and Energy Policy
In 2008, Oregon State University established the wave energy division of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Centre, one of three US Department of Energy-sponsored research institutions that helps facilitate commercialization of wave energy devices.
The Oregon TSP, created in 199419, guides ocean policy in state marine waters and provides important context and constraints for Oregon’s current marine renewable energy planning activities. In 2009, a new Part 5 of the TSP was approved to establish state governance of marine renewable energy projects.20 Part 5 describes the policies, standards and procedures that state agencies will use to approve new alternative energy developments within the territorial sea. These processes and procedures are additional to the existing FERC licensing process.21
A second and final phase of Part 5 is ongoing and expected to be completed by mid-2012. The second phase provides an inventory of existing resources, which are then used to create a master map of the Territorial Sea. The State hopes that the map will identify where development of ocean energy may occur without interfering with existing marine resources and other uses. Until both phases are complete, no new commercial-scale wave energy permits will be issued in Oregon waters.
The development of Part 5 of the Territorial Sea Plan is framed by Oregon Statewide Planning Goal 19,22 (referred to as Goal 19), which guides all planning activities that could affect ocean resources. Paul Klarin is Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development’s (DLCD) Marine Affairs Coordinator and staff lead for the TSP update process. According to Klarin, Goal 19 “provides three planning pillars that need to be addressed during the TSP update; broadly speaking, these are to protect 1) marine ecosystems, 2) areas important to fisheries, and 3) existing uses of the territorial sea.”
Mapping the Oregon Coast
The Goal 19 data layers within MarineMap portray one side of the energy siting story: potential constraints to wave energy development. Energy opportunities, to date, have not been incorporated into the spatial analysis. The assumption of the DLCD is that once Goal 19 resources are identified, the space that remains could be considered for marine renewable energy development. In this way, the planning process will “back into” energy opportunities.
Marine renewable energy experts are concerned by this approach. According to Jason Busch, Executive Director of OWET: “The fact is wave energy can’t just go anywhere. Minimizing distance from deepwater ports, nearby transmission infrastructure, suitable bathymetry, an adequate wave climate and other factors make the difference between a viable site and one that is not feasible.”
The concern is that the space remaining after Goal 19 resources are identified and buffered will be minimal and may not be suitable for marine renewable energy. And while it is possible for some developers to move further offshore into federal waters, siting in the Territorial Sea to keep costs low is likely to be desirable for the first generation of projects. Furthermore, some wave devices are designed exclusively for nearshore and shallow depths; these devices do not have the option of moving offshore.
So, the question is: how does the State meet its obligation to protect Goal 19 resources, while ensuring adequate space in the right places to support marine renewable energy?
Consideration of Energy in the Planning Process
While broadly supportive of wave energy development, the State’s existing directives are not explicit about how to strike that balance between uses. “What we lack,” said Klarin, “is any kind of decisive policy on the part of the State and Federal Government about how to site renewable energy in the ocean specifically and how to weigh it against other uses.”
Most energy facilities in Oregon are sited on a project-by-project basis, typically at the local (county) level. Very large wind generators, gas facilities, transmission lines and other major energy infrastructure trigger jurisdiction under the State’s Energy Facility Siting Council. This body issues a site certificate for an energy facility, if it can meet a series of standards that protect natural resources and public health and safety. If the facility does not meet one or more of the standards, the Council cannot issue a site certificate, unless the applicant can show that the overall public benefits of the facility outweigh potential damage to resources. This type of balancing requires an understanding of the benefits of all uses involved. Fishing, marine ecosystems and tourism provide benefits to the State and citizens of Oregon. Marine renewable energy has benefits in high technology job creation and new carbon free power that could displace other more polluting forms of energy. But current planning goals in Oregon do not provide the ability to consider carbon mitigation, economic development and other benefits of a marine renewable energy installation and weigh those against protection of existing uses and Goal 19 planning goals.
“A good MHK [marine hydrokinetic] test site is tremendously valuable for the State and it’s frustrating that we’re not able to weigh that value in the planning process and fully consider how it compares to other existing uses,” said Busch.
Other states and countries have also wrestled with the uncertain benefits and impacts of marine renewable energy in their own coastal and marine spatial planning processes. On the U.S. East Coast in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine, state plans have recognized that uncertainty requires some level of flexibility. For example, preserving ample space for multiple uses, where energy project applications could be considered on a site-by-site basis under existing law. Klarin and Busch both recognize this need for flexibility in the Oregon plan.
Busch would like to see consideration of the appropriate level of protection for Goal 19 resources, so that in some cases co-location with energy facilities could be an option. “What does it mean to protect Goal 19 resources?” he asks. “There are obvious no-go zones -MPAs [marine protected areas], previously permitted sites and cables, for example - but are there other Goal 19 areas that are a little more flexible where multiple uses might work and existing uses could be maintained? No one has actually analyzed what the impacts of renewable energy might be in some of these areas. The question is: are you willing to make a decision today about categorical exclusion of those sites?”
Klarin argues that multiple use zones where energy could be allowed make sense where Goal 19 resources are not as significant, but concedes that a “very large percentage of the territorial sea is going to be off-limits for marine renewable energy for one or more reasons.” And according to Klarin, many of the areas with overlapping Goal 19 resources are likely to be around deepwater port facilities that the marine renewable industry sees as prime locations for the first generation of projects. Recognizing the impact this could have on early industry adopters, Klarin sees “temporary use areas” as a potential option in certain Goal 19 areas. He explained that “temporary use areas could allow testing or deployment for sites with a small footprint, limited duration and an understanding that, after testing, equipment would be removed and commercial development would occur outside of the Goal 19 area.”
According to Busch, “temporary use areas might work but the details are important. If we could work out an arrangement where after demonstration, the developer could keep some critical infrastructure in place, like cables, and then move beyond the three mile line or to a site nearby for a larger build out, it could be acceptable.”
The TSP process is moving into a public phase in the beginning of 2012, with increased opportunity for discussion and participation from the renewable energy industry as well as other interested stakeholders. Workable solutions that meet both Goal 19 and state renewable energy targets will require the transparency of public process, as well as a better understanding of both the potential impacts and benefits of renewable energy technologies. As planning details are worked out over the next 10 months of public process and in the period following adoption of the updated TSP, the State and stakeholders will have a growing data set and tools available to support transparent decision making.
Decision Support Tools to Guide Planning and Siting in Oregon
Klarin sees these analytical tools as particularly valuable post planning, to “zoom in on particular sites, do tradeoff analysis and inform adaptive management.” Busch had envisioned the tools as useful in the broader planning context. Parametrix acknowledges that the BASS project is in early development and will not be ready to apply to the Territorial Sea Planning process in the next few months. Because of the intensity of data inputs and complexity of the results, this tool is most applicable in small-scale or project-specific siting work, instead of territorial sea-wide planning.
Next Steps and Conclusions
16 Oregon Revised Statutes 469A.210, as amended by HB 3633 (2010). “The Legislative Assembly finds that community-based renewable energy projects, including but not limited to marine renewable energy resources that are either developed in accordance with the Territorial Sea Plan adopted pursuant to ORS 196.471 or located on structures adjacent to the coastal shorelands, are an essential element of Oregon’s energy future, and declares that it is the goal of the State of Oregon that by 2025 at least eight percent of Oregon’s retail electrical load comes from small-scale renewable energy projects with a generating capacity of 20 megawatts or less.”