June 4, 2014
By Ted Shorack
The Oregon Military Department says it plans to test a wave energy converter this summer off of Camp Rilea in Warrenton.
The Oregon National Guard and a wave energy partner expect to place a 30- by 7-foot device on the ocean floor about a mile off shore.
Mike Morrow, with M3 Wave in Salem, said the testing device would sit about 42 feet below the surface and be placed either in mid-August or September depending on the availability of vessels for deployment.
“We’re taking baby steps,” said Morrow. “This is a unique near shore site.”
Clatsop County commissioners were informed of the next step last week during a presentation by Col. Kenneth Safe, Rick Williams and Morrow.
Williams, a retired U.S. Navy captain working as the systems engineer on the project, said Oregon is an ideal state to test equipment because of manufacturing, local technology development and already low utility power rates.
“This is a great place to prove technology,” said Williams. “It will be an appropriate place for small installations.”
The waters off Camp Rilea are prime crabbing grounds and fishermen have been concerned about wave energy devices interfering with equipment.
Fishermen have met with project leaders during the study period and requested single-point mooring if a device requires a buoy.
The device being tested this summer harnesses the pressure of a wave on the ocean floor and does not require a buoy. However, during the testing period, a telemetry or marker buoy could be used, Morrow said. The energy converter is stationary and enclosed airbags inflate and deflate to create electricity.
Morrow said the design has evolved around discussions with crab fishermen and other stakeholders. He said testing could include deploying fishing gear to see how it interacts with the device.
The overall project is at the very beginning of conceptual design, Williams said. An ongoing study looked at possible cable routes that would go underneath the floor and connect the converter device with equipment at the camp.
The Oregon National Guard has been pursuing the project as a way to further its energy net-zero initiative, a plan for becoming energy independent. Camp Rilea is a training center for armed forces and is also home to the Clatsop County Emergency Operation Center.
“Camp Rilea has a training mission and needs dependable power,” said Williams, allowing for energy security, independence and disaster resiliency.
The phase after initial testing would establish energy independence with a 1 to 2 megawatt project to power the camp and have some access for the community. In March, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed House Bill 4042, which authorized net-metering for renewable marine energy, allowing the base to offset its costs by providing energy to a distributor.
An Oregon Wave Energy Trust grant and private funds are being used for the project. Morrow said the project is looking at fabrication locally and might use the Ironwood training vessel at Tongue Point Jobs Corps for deployment. The device will be left in the water between two to six weeks depending on weather conditions.
Williams said the project might also provide internship opportunities for students at Tongue Point Job Corps or Clatsop Community College’s Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station.