Surf’s up, natural resource use down
Newport will soon be the first place in the United States to have a wave energy test program. The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, a collaboration of Oregon State University and the University of Washington, announced their decision in late April.
The site will be around one square mile in size, two miles northwest of Yaquina Head in water that is 150-180 feet deep. The facility is being funded by both the state of Oregon and the U.S. Department of Energy.
“If all of our plans and permits are approved, we hope to have the test facility available for wave energy developers to use by this fall,” said Annette von Jouanne, an OSU professor of electrical engineering and leader with the university’s wave energy research programs.
The site will also be used to study any potential environmental impacts on sediments and sea life. A release from the group said that it will not initially be connected to the land-based electrical grid.
Testing will be done using a chartered vessel or stand-alone buoy along with the wave energy devices, and most of the technology being tested will produce its energy through the up-and-down motion of the waves. Some devices may be very large, up to 100 feet tall and with a diameter of up to 50 feet, but mostly below the water line.
“The site will not necessarily be off-limits to other ocean users,” said Kaety Hildenbrand, a marine fisheries faculty member with Oregon Sea Grant. “As part of our continuing outreach to the coastal community, we plan to have a series of dialogues with safety experts and ocean users to discuss allowable uses.”
The selection of this site and creation of the test facility will be another important step forward for the future of wave energy in the United States, officials said.