Siting Wave Energy on the Oregon Coast: The Oregon Territorial Sea and Siting Analysis Tools

Author(s) Rebecca Sherman O’Neil, Simon Geerlofs, Luke Hanna
Year 2012
Type Articles


(Simon Geerlofs, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Rebecca Sherman O’Neil, Oregon Department of Energy. Luke Hanna, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Hoyt Battey, U.S. Department of Energy).

Oregon’s powerful waves, steady winds and strong renewable energy policies make the state a natural place for wave energy business. Healthy marine ecosystems, commercial and recreational fishing, marine transportation, tourism and the scenic beauty of the ocean are also important values to coastal communities. Encouraging development of a sustainable wave energy industry, while protecting existing coastal values presents a management challenge for the State of Oregon. It also presents an opportunity for a science-based discussion around how the ocean is currently used and how it can be used in the future to maximize public benefit.

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
With more than 300 miles of coastline and a wave climate well suited to power production, Oregon has long been considered a prime U.S. location for wave energy development. The presence of deepwater ports, manufacturing industries and diffuse coastal electricity demand offer developers excellent siting opportunities.
Recognizing the opportunity to be a leader in an emerging international industry focusing on marine renewable energy, Oregon has adopted policies to encourage wave energy developers to test, constructa nd locate devices in Oregon waters. In 2007, the Oregon Innovation Council began to fund the Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET), a public-private partnership that connects stakeholders and carries outresearch in support of wave energy development. In the same year, the state enacted a Renewable Portfolio Standard that required 25% of power consumed in Oregon to be sourced from renewable resources and identified a preference for marine renewable energy development including wave energy.16

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 Territorial Sea Plan Part 5 and Statewide Planning Goal 19

The state’s policy actions encouraging marine renewable energy created early enthusiasm for development on the part of the wave energy industry. As developers began to explore sites and engage in permitting processes, concern started to grow in coastal communities about the size of wave energy installations and how fast development could occur. In response, Oregon signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) - the federal agency that licenses grid-connected pilot and commercial wave energy projects - in March 2008, to agree that all proposed wave energy projects are responsive to State environmental, economic and cultural concerns.17 The Governor then directed that Oregon’s existing TSP should be amended to guide the siting of ocean renewable energy facilities.18

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 Part5 of the TSP was approved to establish state governance of marine renewable energy projects.20 Part5 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 Klarinis 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 DLCD is using Goal 19 to drive the TSP mapping process, setting out to identify Goal 19 resources in the territorial sea and creating a map layer for each of the three planning pillars described above. “Those three sets of maps are combined to give us an understanding of the total areas that need to be protected from new development,” said Klarin.
Goal 19 does not provide specific guidance on measures necessary to “maintain and protect” ecosystems, fisheries and existing uses. The DLCD has indicated that it will take a conservative planning approach to identify Goal 19 resources first and then buffer them against marine renewable energy installations. At this point, planning options exclude marine renewable energy from Goal 19 protection areas.
The DLCD is using a web-based interactive mapping tool called MarineMap23 to assemble spatial data, show the location of existing Goal 19 resources and to inform stakeholder dialog around planning options. MarineMap does not describe potential compatibility of new uses with those that currently exist, or tradeoffs, if uses were co-located.

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
All parties acknowledge that it is difficult to plan for an industry that is brand new. Without considering a specific device in a specific location, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust has attempted to define compatibilities and what the industry needs most. “OWET has already mapped high priority areas and vetted the parameters with industry,” said Busch. He believes that planning for marine renewable energy should “begin with these high priority areas with a thought toward commercial development and try to find sites that strike a balance.”

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 consideredon 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
In addition to providing spatial representation of uses and resources in the Territorial Sea to inform the planning process, the DLCD has selected MarineMap as its decision support tool for considering new energy permits. MarineMap contains dozens of spatial layers for Goal 19-eligible resources and uses. A one-square mile grid is applied to the Territorial Sea so that those varied spatial data layers are combined to provide a coarse filter representing the presence of all relevant Goal 19 resources and uses.
Virtually all spatial planning analyses today are built around the power of existing geographic information systems (GIS) applications. This is popular because these systems already exist and adapting them for planning tasks is straight forward. They are widely available and there is a large user base familiar with GIS systems. However, most available GIS systems do not handle multi-dimensional or incompatible data well; they do not account for uncertainties in the data; they do not handle temporal data well or at all and they do not help the user make value-balancing decisions.
Therefore, the scientific focus of marine renewable energy siting tools currently under development is to add to the spatial power of GIS with a processing engine that can handle the three missing components: complexity, uncertainty and time. In addition, the tools should support decision making once the scientific analysis is complete.
To address these issues, three federal agencies, U.S. Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management are providing funding to a team comprised of Parametrix, Oregon State University,24 Robust Decisions and The Nature Conservancy to develop a tool using Bayesian logic, called a Bayesian Analysis of Spatial Siting, or BASS. BASS can integrate disparate data in a manner where the uncertainty of that data is known and the user can see risks associated with making decisions. The BASS tool is building on a previous OWET effort involving many of the same partners to assess cumulative effects, potential impacts and benefits of various marine renewable energy scenarios.

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
After nearly four years of policy work, data collection, mapping and stakeholder meetings, Klarin sees the TSP update process as “in the home stretch.” He predicts that the mapping process will take upmost of the first half of 2012, culminating in a series of recommendations25, which will eventually reach the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission. The Commission will then consider those recommendations, as well as additional stakeholder input, before making a final decision to adopt a plan, likely in third quarter of 2012.
Planning is a public process and Klarin and Busch both see a great deal of value in that process. “The TSP update invokes a public discourse that engages a wide range of stakeholders and members of the general public in an informed discussion they’ve never had before about a particular use,” says Klarin.
Busch agrees: “What’s most important to me is at some level we have a rational, legitimate, scientifically based conversation about whether and how we move this industry forward in Oregon."
As an emergent coastal interest, Klarin sees benefits to the marine renewable energy industry for having participated in the TSP update: “Having gone through the planning process, we’ve built the bridge between developers and stakeholders and encouraged discussions before they walk through the regulatory door. If you clear impediments in advance, the regulatory process is accelerated. What makes the regulatory process slower is conflict.”
Busch is cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the TSP process. The marine renewable energy industry, as the most recent industry in an already crowded sea, “will be held to the highest level of environmental scrutiny, as all user groups should be.” He sees value in a planning process that allows full consideration of all current and future uses of the territorial sea. “If that process works, it means that we brought everyone to the table, we sorted through all of the available information and we made decisions to the benefit of the State. If we can do that, I think that ocean energy has a fighting chance.”


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.”
18 Executive Order 08-07: Directing State Agencies to Protect Coastal Communities in Siting Marine Reserves and Wave Energy Projects.
19 By the Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC)
21 The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has jurisdiction for siting in federal waters greater than3 miles offshore. BOEM andFERC coordinate on the project licensing process in federal waters; thoughthe state also has a say in these projects through Coastal Zone Management Act consistency review.
25 To the Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) and the Territorial Sea Plan Advisory Committee (TSPAC)