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Energy in Oregon

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Ocean-Based Renewable Energy In & Adjacent to Oregon​​ 


Floating offshore wind energy and marine hydrokinetic energy are two categories of emerging, ocean-based energy technologies being explored off Oregon’s coast through active, early-stage research and development activities.

Ocean-Based Energy Technology


According to a 2016 study by the National Renewable Energy Lab, Oregon's total technical potential for floating OSW capacity in ocean depths from 60 – 1000 meters is 60 gigawatts.


Floating OSW energy is similar and different compared to the bottom-fixed OSW energy being developed on the East Coast. While they both generate power from the movement of wind across the ocean, they differ greatly in anchoring technology, scale, energy output, and cost.

Off the East Coast, the ocean floor gradually descends over a great distance, resulting in relatively large areas of shallow water depths less than 60 meters – which are depths where OSW towers can be directly anchored into the seafloor, similarly to how land-based wind towers are directly fixed into the ground, hence the name bottom-fixed OSW.

Off the West Coast, including Oregon, the ocean floor drops steeply to water depths greater than 60 meters – which are depths that require massive floating platforms to support and anchor the OSW towers in place, hence the name floating OSW.

In addition to enabling OSW at deeper depths, the buoyancy, footprint, and mobility of floating platforms also enable the size and scale of OSW towers, turbines, and blades to be much larger with floating OSW compared to bottom-fixed OSW. The larger scale and use of floating platforms add significant upfront costs compared to smaller, bottom-fixed OSW projects. On the other hand – if comparing projects with equal amounts of OSW turbines – the larger, higher cost floating OSW project will also generate significantly larger volumes of energy than a bottom-fixed OSW project. This cost to benefit tradeoff is one of many considerations involved with any overall assessment of the benefits and challenges of floating OSW and planning for its potential development.

OSW In Oregon

In 2021, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 3375. The law declared a state goal to plan for the development of up to 3 gigawatts of floating OSW energy projects within federal waters off the Oregon coast by 2030 – and directed ODOE to study and report on the benefits and challenges. As a result, Oregon policy recognizes the merits of studying and planning for floating OSW, though Oregon has not committed to deployment targets. For more information on Oregon's clean energy policies, and the benefits and challenges of floating OSW off Oregon's coast, see ODOE's 2022 Floating OSW Study & Report.

Federal Involvement

Floating OSW would be located in federal waters, beginning 3 nautical miles from shore and extending out to 200 nautical miles from shore. Federal waters cover the Outer Continental Shelf, which are owned by the U.S. Department of Interior and managed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

BOEM leads the ocean area leasing process for all types of potential development activity for ocean-based energy projects within Federal waters, including OSW and marine hydrokinetic. BOEM is also responsible for permitting the construction and operation of OSW projects. ​


According to a 2011 study by the Electric Power Research Institute, Oregon's total annual available wave energy in the inner shelf alone is equal to 143 billion kilowatt-hours per year – enough energy to power about 28 million homes.


Marine hydrokinetic (MHK) energy is generated from the movement of large bodies of water. Ocean waters adjacent to Oregon are worldclass in terms of providing a source of high-quality wave energy, making the Oregon coast an ideal location for researching & developing MHK technology. MHK energy is not limited by water depths, though some technologies may perform better at different depths.

MHK devices are generally on the smaller side, capable of generating up to 1 megawatt of power output. MHK is a broad term consisting of several sub-categories of devices capable of harvesting different forms of ocean energy – wave, tidal, and current. Design configurations and scales vary widely, across devices.

MHK In Oregon

Oregon State University, through a collaboration of West Coast universities under the Pacific Marine Energy Center​, has been a global pioneer for early research and development activity with MHK. 

Oregon's Renewable Portfolio Standard recognizes MHK technology as an eligible renewable resource. In 2007, the Oregon Innovation Council selected wave energy as an economic innovation focus. As a result of funding from the OIC, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust was established with the goal of responsible development of wave energy projects in Oregon. In 2015, OWET was renamed the Pacific Ocean Energy Trust with an expanded goal to support the responsible development of all types of marine renewable energy technologies, including offshore wind, wave, and tidal energy.

Federal Involvement

Since MHK can be deployed in shallower waters than floating offshore wind, it's possible for MHK energy projects to be located in state waters, closer to Oregon's coast (within 3 nautical miles).

Technology ​​Scale Location
Floating Offshore Wind
Large-scale units
( > 10 MW )
Federal waters
> 3 nautical miles from shore )


Marine Hydrokinetic
(Wave, Tidal, Current)


Small-scale units

( ≤ 1 MW )

State waters

( < 3 nautical miles from shore )


Federal waters

Oregon Development Activity

​Formal interest in developing floating OSW energy in federal waters adjacent to Oregon began in May 2013 when Principle Power, Inc. submitted its “WindFloat Pacific" proposal to BOEM – a 30 megawatt demonstration scale project of 5 turbines 16 nautical miles offshore Coos Bay, Oregon. Principle Power received a $4 million grant from the U.S. DOE for this project with the purpose of enhancing the deployment of stronger, more efficient offshore wind energy technologies.

Five years later, after completing several key steps in BOEM's leasing and permitting process, Principle Power was unable to secure a power purchase agreement with an energy offtaker – an entity to buy the electricity the project would generate. In September 2018, BOEM ceased processing the lease request for this project.

In September 2019, responding to renewed industry interest in floating OSW development, BOEM and the State of Oregon reconvened the BOEM-Oregon Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force. The Task Force was first established in 2011 and remained active during BOEM's processing of the lease requests for the WindFloat Pacific demonstration project and the PacWave South test facility.

The BOEM-Oregon Task Force is comprised of representatives from federal, state, and local agencies; the Governor's Office and local public officials; as well as federally recognized Tribes. It provides a forum for coordination and communication during BOEM's leasing and siting process for potential renewable energy development in federal waters. The Task Force also serves as a forum to share information about regulatory authorities and policy objectives, discuss and identify opportunities to overcome uncertainties in regulatory processes, and identify data & information needs that may benefit from further study. BOEM-Oregon Task Force meetings may be held virtually, in-person, or both, and are open to the public.

Through coordination and communication via the Task Force, BOEM is currently in the process of identifying Wind Energy Areas in federal waters that could then be solicited to OSW developers for lease through a competitive auction.

For more information on BOEM's competitive leasing process & Oregon OSW activities, see BOEM's Oregon Activities website and ODOE's 2022 Floating OSW Study & Report.   ​

Beginning with an early focus on MHK energy, Oregon State University has been a leader in the research & development of ocean-based energy technology off Oregon's coast. In 2016, OSU received a $40 million award from U.S. DOE to develop a utility-scale, grid-connected ocean-based energy test site. This followed an earlier U.S. DOE award of $4 million in 2012, which resulted in plans for two test sites as part of the Pacific Marine Energy Center.

PacWave North is an established site located in state waters, two nautical miles offshore north of Newport, and is not grid connected. The site tests wave energy devices that are connected to the Ocean Sentinel buoy, which collects data on the devices and is powered by the electricity generated from the attached wave energy device. The site measures power generated and characteristics of the wind, waves, and current. 

PacWave South is currently under construction as the first grid-connected, utility-scale wave energy test site in the United States. PacWave South is located in federal waters, five nautical miles offshore between Newport and Waldport. Oregon State University submitted an unsolicited lease request to BOEM in 2013 and began its permitting work with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2014. On February 16, 2021 BOEM issued OSU a lease for the PacWave South test site, and on March 1, 2021 FERC issued OSU a permit to build and operate the PacWave South test facility. The test facility is expected to be operational in 2024 and will tie wave energy generators to the local onshore power grid via subsea cables connecting to Central Lincoln PUD. This site will have four testing berths capable of simultaneously testing up to 20 wave energy devices (up to 5 megawatts per berth) with a 20 megawatt maximum power output to the onshore grid.​

Siting & Permitting: Federal & State Regulatory Jurisdiction​s​​

Ocean areas within three nautical miles perpendicular to the state's coastline are regulated under state & local jurisdictions.

  • Siting & Permitting ocean-based energy projects in state waters involves many state & local agencies, and is primarily led by the Oregon Department of State Lands and governed by Oregon's Territorial Sea Plan.​

Ocean areas beyond state waters and within 200 nautical miles perpendicular to the state's coastline are regulated under federal jurisdiction.

  • Leasing ocean areas for all ocean-based energy projects in federal waters is led by the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) – within the U.S. Department of Interior – and involves many other federal, state, & local agencies. ​
  • Siting & Permitting ocean-based energy projects in federal waters varies based on energy technology. 
    • MHK Permitting – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is responsible for permitting the construction & operation of MHK projects. Link to FERC's review process.
    • ​Federal Consistency Authority – Oregon authority for state agencies to assess and determine if any proposed development actions considered under a Federal regulatory process are consistent with Oregon policies, including Oregon's Territorial Sea Plan. Link to Oregon's federal consistency review process.  ​

Ocean-Based Energy Activity in Federal Waters Adjacent to Oregon

Technology Phase of Commercial Maturity Project Name / Sponsor BOEM Activity Online Status
Floating Offshore Wind
Large-Scale Demo Phase
Early Commercial Operation Phase

Leasing Process

Process Underway


Marine Hydrokinetic
(Wave,Tidal, Current)


Lab Research Phase
Small-Scale Demo Phase

PacWave South /
Pacific Marine Energy Center

(Oregon State

Non-Competitive Leasing Process

Lease Issued:
Feb 2021

Under Construction

Online Target: 2024

Construction Updates

Energy and Transmission Needs

Most of Oregon’s electricity demand is west of the Cascades, while much of the electricity generation is east of the Cascades in the form of hydroelectric dams and fossil-fuel plants. Transmission lines that cross the Coast Range are all owned by the Bonneville Power Administration and transfer power east-to-west. There is no significant power generation on the coast to bolster those lines. Local generating resources could safeguard the system against problems such as outages and overloads, and preserve a local utility’s ability to deliver electricity to its customers.

Ocean-based energy projects can provide more consistent power production than solar or land-based wind because they are relatively constant. The potential for generating wave energy off of Oregon’s coast is strongest during the winter months, which coincides with peak electricity demand in coastal communi​ties. Wind patterns over the ocean are typically stronger and more consistent than wind patterns on land. These winds have the potential of producing steady energy and significantly larger amounts of electricity than land-based wind installations, even with increased wind speeds of only a few miles per hour.

Learn more about energy in Oregon in our 2022 Biennial ​Energy Report.

 ​Renewable Energy Development Grants​

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