The Oregon Coastline is among a handful of places in the world that possesses the four key attributes that make it uniquely situated for ocean renewable energy development: a high quality wave energy regime; internationally-recognized experts who are leading efforts to responsibly develop wave energy; a grid infrastructure that is ready to absorb new generation; and a coastal infrastructure to support an ocean renewable energy industry.
In In January 2013, the State of Oregon completed a five-year planning process to modify the state’s ocean policies to accommodate ocean renewable energy. The new plan identifies where, and under what conditions, an ocean energy project may develop in state waters. The new first of its kind plan, called the Territorial Sea Plan, Part 5, provides a clear regulatory pathway that will provide the necessary certainty to justify the significant investment that will be made to advance this new form of clean, reliable energy. The Plan also provides a map of the ocean where ocean energy is incentivized and where it is discouraged. The Territorial Sea Plan represents a major step forward for Oregon to advance this new industry, and it represents an excellent ballance betwen protecting the ocean and its users and helping this major new industry to develop.
The ocean is the largest, most concentrated supply of renewable energy on earth. Wave energy is clean, predictable, and, unlike other renewable resources, is available 24/7. It has no greenhouse gas emissions, produces no pollution, and requires no major drilling or mining.
The World Energy Council has estimated that approximately 2 terawatts (2 million megawatts), about double current world electricity productions, could be produced from ocean energy. A United States Department of Energy (US DOE) study concluded that accessible wave energy could provide 15 percent of Oregon’s energy demand.
The Electrical Power Research Institute, EPRI, conducted a study of wave power generation that concludes that the economics of wave energy could be at least as favorable as wind generation, if the same resources that have been invested in wind and solar energy were invested in wave energy. Pike Research has predicted that within the next five to eight years – with the proper investment – emerging ocean renewable technologies will become commercialized to the point that they can begin competing for a share of the burgeoning market for carbon-free and non-polluting renewable resources.
Oregon is leading the development of the wave energy industry in the United States. Several companies have come to Oregon to test and deploy their technolgoies, and we are moving quickly toward full-scale technology deployment.
For example, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) may soon will be the first developer to deploy a commercial scale device in the U.S. They plan to deploy their 150 kilowatt PowerBuoy ® device off of Reedsport, and they have received all of the necessary permits. OPT plans to follow that Phase One deployment with a Phase Two consisting of nine more devices at the same location.
Oregon Iron Works (OIW) constructed the various components of the PowerBuoy 150 device. OIW estimates that construction of this buoy created or sustained approximately 30 jobs. Vigor Marine will do the final assembly, and lower the device into the water at its Port of Portland location. Several other Oregon and Washington based companies have contracts to construct or perform various aspects of this first buoy. Building OPT’s 100-buoy project at Reedsport promises to bring a significant amount of skilled manufacturing jobs to Oregon.
Wave Energy Priorities and Initiatives
The Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) is a nonprofit public-private partnership funded by the Oregon Innovation Council. OWET’s programs seek to support the responsible development of the wave energy industry and reduce barriers to getting wave energy projects into the water.
Over the past seven years, OWET has used its state funding to promote the responsible development of ocean energy by working with the industry and stakeholders to move this new technology closer to commercial viability. Research and development receives the majority of funding, and has advanced our understanding of this new technology and helped attract companies to Oregon.
OWET’s activities are grouped within five major program areas:
Stakeholder/Community Education and Engagement. OWET works with stakeholders, industry, and local communities to explore the balance between existing ocean uses and wave energy projects.
Regulatory and Policy. OWET has played a significant role in helping to develop the State of Oregon plan for accommodating ocean energy in State waters. OWET advocates for policies that give companies a clear and concise path toward permitting and deploying their renewable energy equipment, while ensuring that Oregon’s ocean and users will be protected. OWET also continues to work with state lawmakers and regulators to reduce legal barriers to entry into the Oregon market.
Environmental Impact. OWET has sponsored environmental research to better understand the potential impacts of wave energy projects on the environment. The selection of these studies has been informed by the study plans generated by wave energy project development on the Central Oregon coast.
Applied Research and Development. OWET has initiated applied research projects that provide information and guidance for developers seeking to deploy – or prepare to deploy – prototype and commercial wave energy installations in Oregon.
Market Development. OWET offers developers interested in doing business in Oregon a level of professional fluency in wave energy unrivalled in North American. They work with wave energy companies to understand state and federal incentives, access the Northwest’s utilities and the wave regime of the Oregon Coast, and the state’s pool of highly capable metals manufacturers, fabricators, integrators and logisticians.
Wave Energy Testing in Oregon
In the summer of 2012, two buoys were deployed off of Newport, Oregon. The WET-NZ device, deployed by Northwest Energy Innovations was a half-scale buoy, and it was connected to the Ocean Sentinel, deployed by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC). These deployments represent the beginning of the national testing program at NNMREC, which is a national ocean energy testing center funded by the US DOE, and is located at Oregon State University. The test site will be in high demand and is likely to attract companies to Oregon.
The testing facilities at NNMREC are referred to as the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC), and currently includes shoreside wave tank facilities as well as the in-water test site.
In addition, the US DOE announced in September 2012 that Oregon would receive the first tranche of funding for the first grid-connect, in-water test site in the United States. In combination with NNMREC’s existing testing tanks at Hinsdale Wave Lab and the Newport non-grid connected test site, Oregon will soon be able to provide a full suite of testing capability for technologies ranging from early stage to full scale.
ECONorthwest predicted in a report commissioned by the Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) that at the mature industrial stage, the wage energy industry could sustain over 11,000 jobs along Oregon’s coast and over 13,000 jobs statewide. The industrial phase would also increase coastal economic output by almost $2 billion annually and $2.4 billion statewide. This phase would also provide new tax revenue of over $56 million to Oregon’s coast communities and over $90 million to the entire state.
ECONorthwest also notes that, while it is clear there is significant economic potential for the wave energy industry, technological and cost barriers must be addressed so the industry can progress to the commercial stage.
Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) emphasizes an inclusive, collaborative model to ensure that Oregon maintains its competitive advantage and maximizes the economic development and environmental potential of this emerging industry. Its work includes stakeholder outreach and education, policy development, environmental assessment, applied research, and market development to reduce barriers to development.
OWET’s strategy is to maintain “technology neutrality” and focus its resources on reducing barriers to the responsible commercial development of wave energy. Its goal is to produce 500 MW of clean power from the ocean – about 3 to 5 percent of the state’s energy and power enough for 200,000 homes – by 2025.
Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC). The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center is one of only three US Department of Energy-sponsored marine renewable energy centers. The mission of NNMREC is to facilitate commercialization of marine energy technology, inform regulatory and policy decisions, and close key gaps in scientific understanding. Oregon State University, with assistance from OWET, was awarded $6.25 million by the US Department of Energy to develop NNMREC and establish a test-berth facility. NNMREC will soon be the only national grid-connected test site in the United States.