First U.S. Wave Energy Set for Oregon Coast

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Infographic by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center
The Pacific Marine Energy Center will host wave devices about 5 miles offshore, connecting to the utility grid via buried cables that carry electric current back to shore.

The following news release was provided Jan. 15, 2013, from Oregon State University’sNorthwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center.

The Northwest National Marine
Renewable Energy
Center, or NNMREC, which is based at Oregon State
University, has chosen Newport, Ore., as the
future site of the first utility-scale, grid-connected wave energy test site in
the United States – the Pacific Marine Energy
Center.

The Pacific
Marine Energy
Center, or PMEC, will
test energy generation potential and the environmental impacts of wave energy
devices, at an ocean site about five miles from shore. Subsea cables will
transmit energy from the wave energy devices to the local power grid, and data
to scientists and engineers at on-shore facilities.

The first installment of funding for PMEC was received in
September, 2012, consisting of $4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy,
along with a non-federal cost match.

“PMEC represents a major step toward the development of
energy from Oregon’s
ocean waters,” said Jason Busch of the Oregon Wave Energy Trust. “I’m certain
that Oregon
will reap benefits from PMEC for many years to come, and the research and
development performed at PMEC will help usher in this new form of reliable
electricity from the sea.”

PMEC design and specific site characterization will begin
soon, along with the permitting and regulatory process. NNMREC will continue to
work with a variety of partners to develop additional funding sources. The
exact ocean location for the PMEC site will be finalized in the next few months
in a zone that has been selected in collaboration with ocean stakeholders – an
area that will not impede shipping lanes and takes environmental impacts into
consideration.

Energy From the Sea

The Pacific
Marine Energy
Center will have four
“test berths,” open spaces of water dedicated to testing individual devices or
small arrays of devices, each of which will be connected to the community’s
electrical grid. It will also collect data associated with environmental and
human dimension impacts. Completion will take several years.

“This site selection builds on the global reputation of Oregon State
University in both
renewable energy research and marine science,” said Rick Spinrad, OSU vice
president for research. “Future research results from this site will help
ensure our state’s leadership in these critical areas.”

The development and operation of this facility will provide
jobs and other economic development as it attracts researchers and device
developers to the Oregon
coast from around the world, officials said. While under development, the Ocean Sentinel, NNMREC’s mobile ocean test buoy platform operating out of Toledo, will continue its
work testing energy devices at its ocean test site north of Yaquina Head.

Advances in wave power technology are also one example of
the growing partnerships between OSU and private industry. The university just
announced a major new initiative, the Oregon State University Advantage, which
includes such programs as the OSU Venture Accelerator and the Industry
Partnering Program. It’s expected to help create 20 new businesses within the
next five years while enhancing student education and Oregon’s economic growth.

Tidal Electricity for Coastal Community Development

In an extensive site selection process, NNMREC worked with
four coastal communities to consider both technical criteria and community
resources.  The options were narrowed last fall to Reedsport and Newport, the two
communities that best matched the needed criteria for PMEC. Site selection
teams from those communities submitted proposals in December.

The selection was ultimately based on ocean site
characteristics, marine and on-shore cable routes, port and industry
capabilities, impacts to existing ocean users, permitting challenges,
stakeholder participation in the proposal process, and support of the local
fishing communities.

“Both communities were committed to finding a home for
PMEC,” said Kaety Hildenbrand of Oregon Sea Grant, coordinator of the site team
process. “They spoke to their own strengths and demonstrated their unique
assets.”

Belinda Batten, director of NNMREC, said the communities
were similar in their capacities and capabilities, and the final choice focused
on making PMEC a global competitor among international test facilities. All
coastal communities will benefit from the growth of this industry on the Oregon coast, she said.

The Oregon Wave Energy Trust has supported PMEC and helped
create a wave energy development regulatory process that meshes the needs of
ocean stakeholders and the state. The agency has also helped address key points
in Gov. Kitzhaber’s 10-year energy plan, including how wave energy is
integrated into Oregon’s
power grid while maintaining high environmental standards.

NNMREC is a partnership between OSU and University of Washington, focused on wave and tidal
energy respectively, and receives a substantial part of its funding from U.S.
Department of Energy. NNMREC operates a non-grid connected wave energy testing
facility in Newport north of Yaquina Head and
supports intermediate scale device testing in Puget Sound and Lake
Washington. PMEC will complete the wave energy device test
facilities.