In thinking about the South Coast from an island point of view, one issue that deserves consideration is – how do we stay warm? How do we run our electronic gadgets? How do we get from here to there?
In other words, how much basic energy can we produce right here in our own backyard?
As always, our biggest challenge is the Coast Range. In this case, our exquisitely panoramic geography becomes a hindrance for one popular alternative — wind.
Certainly, our magnificent storms contain a lot of energy potential. But experts acknowledge that, for current technology, the topography creates a turbulence that difficult to harness. There is definitely potential for wind generation far offshore, but that technology is still in the research phase.
Same for wave energy. Again, spectacular storms suggest huge untapped energy potential. But the trick remains in finding the right generation system and the right locations — and being able to make the process economically feasible.
But another alternative is currently “ready for prime time,” so to speak, and that's solar.
If you’re raising your eyebrows (we did, at first), you'll find that solar technology has progressed remarkably, and the cost of solar panels has come down significantly in the last decade, according to Shannon Souza, environmental engineer and energy systems designer for Sol Coast Consulting and Design. (That’s thanks to German engineering, Souza says.)
And we’ve already got examples of solar right here in Coos Bay. They’re not obvious unless you look up, but the downtown visitors center is partially powered by solar panels. And last October the Oregon Coast Community Action Child and Family Resource Center flipped the switch on its solar energy system. ORCCA also has solar on some of its low income housing complexes.
The technology is solid enough now that it qualifies for tax incentives and financing. And it’s available for all kinds of structures, business and private.
Solar is an alternative that we could be taking better advantage of right now, while research continues on offshore wind, biomass and wave technologies. We know this works for our island.
And we’ve decided to get an estimate and find out if it will work right here, at the offices of The World. We'll let you know what we find out.