September 11, 2013
At least one person believes wave energy will happen off the Oregon coast.
“We are definitely going to see ocean energy happening in Oregon.”
Jason Busch is the executive director of the Ocean Wave Energy Trust (OWET).
“OWET is a private, non-profit that’s funded through the state of Oregon through something called the Oregon Innovation Council; Oregon INC for short,” Busch explained. “Oregon INC is a group of business leaders from around the state that volunteer their time, come together on a volunteer basis, to look at opportunities for the state to invest in industries that have the potential to grow and produce jobs.”
Busch says Oregon INC distributes funds to handful of initiatives.
“OWET is one of those initiatives,” he continued. “We receive funding on a biennial basis from Oregon INC to, essentially, capitalize on Oregon’s natural advantages for ocean renewable energy, primarily wave energy.”
Busch says OWET focuses on four primary goals.
“Research and development;” he said, “regulatory policy; market development, which is, basically, work with utilities and, then finally, education and outreach.”
The organization recently staffed a booth at Art By the Bay in Winchester Bay to talk with the public about the organization and explain what it does.
Busch said their mission is to promote “responsible development” of ocean renewable energy.
“Our vision is to attract and build the ocean renewable energy industry in Oregon,” he said.
The ultimate goal is to create electricity from the ocean.
Busch talked about the efforts of Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), which has proposed building a wave energy site off the coast of Reedsport … an effort which is now stalled.
“OPT is an industry pioneer,” he said. “They’ve done as much as anyone, thus far, in terms of moving the industry toward commercial viability.
“That project, in particular, has definitely slowed down. They’ve run into issues that are both regulatory in nature, as well as technology.”
Ocean Power Technologies had received the permits and met the regulatory requirements to begin work off the coast of Reedsport.
“Since that time, there have been new regulatory requirements that have come up they have to meet before they deploy that first buoy,” Busch said.
“Their full FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) license was going to be for 1.5 megawatts, which is 10,150 kW buoys,” he continued. “But, they were slow in deploying that first buoy so they actually ran into the point where FERC actually issued their license. But since they hadn’t put their first buoy in the water, FERC decided to go ahead and absorb that first buoy into their license. At that point (OPT) was required to meet a lot more permitting requirements before they could deploy that first buoy.”
Busch said, because of a moratorium on ocean energy issued by the state in 2008, OPT is the only company moving toward actually placing a buoy.
Busch is confident there will be wave energy projects off the coast.
“OPT has been viewed as, sort of, a proxy for the industry,” he explained, “but OPT is just one of many companies.
“They were, at one time, the leader and definitely the pioneer in the industry, but there are a lot of other companies out there. Technologies are all advancing, however slowly, to commercial viability.”
Busch says the state’s completion of its Territorial Sea Plan (TSP) in January is another step in moving forward.
“That plan gets submitted to the feds,” he said. “To NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and FERC. Those two agencies have the ability to adopt our plan, essentially approve of that plan, and when they do, then our rules essentially become their rules. Our standards become their standards.”
When that happens, Busch said, the moratorium on such projects off the Oregon coast should be lifted.
“That’s big news,” he said. “We’re the first state in the nation to adopt a Territorial Sea Plan to address ocean energy and control our own destiny. The industry is watching that. They’re certainly well aware of it. I think the industry feels good about it.”