January 16th, 2013By Pete Danko
The U.S. intends to get serious about wave energy development in Newport, Oregon.
The seaside town of 10,000, an hour’s drive over the Coast Range from Corvallis (home to wave energy leader Oregon State University), was selected to be the site of the Pacific Marine Energy Center, the country’s first utility-scale, grid-connected test site.
The Oregon coast at Newport (image via Wikimedia Commons)
The test center would provide companies a patch of water and the infrastructure to test their devices, a necessity in the infant industry’s quest to prove it can be a contributor to U.S. electrical grids.
The Department of Energy last September seeded the effort to build the PMEC with a $4 million grant, to be matched by outside funds. More funding will be needed over the course of the several years needed to complete the PMEC, but regional leaders are driving hard to make it a reality.
The state of Oregon believes the PMEC – modeled after the highly successful European Marine Energy Centre in Scotland – will cement its position as the home base for U.S. wave energy development, bringing plenty of jobs developing, manufacturing, deploying and servicing wave energy devices. (Plus, there’s the clean energy.)
“PMEC represents a major step toward the development of energy from Oregon’s ocean waters,” Jason Busch of the public-private Oregon Wave Energy Trust, a backer of the PMEC, said in a statement. “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.”
The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, based at Oregon State and the University of Washington, is heading up the PMEC development. Last fall, the NNMREC deployed the Ocean Sentinel, a small-scale ocean test buoy platform with no grid connection. It was a good step forward, but nothing like what the PMEC promises to be.
The search for a PMEC host began with four communities under serious consideration before Newport and Reedsport were named as finalists last September. The 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.”
While Newport will be a hub for the PMEC development, the NNMREC added that “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.”
Reedsport, by the way, will still be a part of Oregon’s wave energy future, and soon: This spring, Ocean Power Technologies says it will deploy its commercial, utility-scale PowerBuoy wave energy device two and a half miles off the coast near the town. OPT, based in New Jersey, is the first company to be fully licensed to run a grid-connected wave power array in the United States.