Despite one high-profile failure, the tide is rising for ocean energy in Oregon
Oregon’s 300 miles of Pacific Ocean shoreline are characterized by strong waves, relentless winds and, as it turns out, an extensive electric transmission grid. Combined with Oregon State University’s research prowess and state policies that encourage alternative energy, Oregon is positioned as a premier destination for testing new technologies that harvest energy from the ocean.
But despite its ideal conditions, there are few projects in the water right now.
Arguably the highest-profile wave energy project planned for Oregon was a 50-buoy “wave park” to be developed by New Jersey based Ocean Power Technologies. Following multiple deployment delays and plan alterations, the project was scrapped in early 2014.
Still, Cate Millar, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET ), feels Oregon’s industry is nearing a tipping point.
“It takes a long time to get a new industry going,” said Millar.
OWET was created by the state’s economic development arm, Business Oregon, to make Oregon a leader in all things ocean energy. With a slate of new projects in the works, the effort is gaining momentum.
Offshore wind power development firm Principle Power of Seattle recently won a U.S. Department of Energy grant for up to $47 million to install five floating wind turbines off the coast of Coos Bay. Oregon State University is leading the charge on a new research center in Newport. The Pacific Marine Energy Center, partially funded by the U.S. DOE , will provide a full array of resources to test new energy devices. In Astoria, Corvallis-based M3 Wave is preparing the first in-ocean test of its novel technology, a device installed on the ocean floor that offers little interference with boats and wildlife.
Other companies considering Oregon’s waters include Columbia Power Technologies, Northwest Energy Innovations, Wedge Global Wave Energy, Oscilla Power, Ocean Energy LT D and Resolute Marine Energy.
As momentum continues to build, Oregon is looking to attract wave energy developers at every stage.
“It’s part of our industry business plan that even if a company is planning to deploy somewhere else, Oregon should still be the place where they can manufacture their devices and test them prior to permanent deployment elsewhere,” said Jason Busch, OWET ’s executive director.