Putting Ocean Power To The Test In Oregon

Marine power development in the United States is in its infancy, but the Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) is nudging it toward taking a grown-up step.

In pursuit of its goal of mining the Pacific Ocean for energy, the public-private partnership is aiming to create a grid-connected ocean power test facility. The envisioned Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC) would give the United States something that Europe already has at the operating European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Scotland, and at Wave Hub, the four-plug socket in place off the Cornwall coast.

pacific marine testing center

image via Ocean Power Technologies

The Oregonians have a long way to go to catch up to the Europeans. Right now, OWET is seeking a consultant [PDF] to create a development plan for the PMEC, which is being undertaken with the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC), a collaboration of Oregon State University and the University of Washington and one of only three federally sponsored ocean energy centers.

NNMREC is well along in a separate project to build a commercially available ocean test berth for marine power technologies off Yaquina Head, just north of Newport, Ore.; it’s expected to begin putting devices through their paces this summer. “With this facility, NNMREC will have a full suite of testing capabilities to support the advancement of small-scale and full-scale devices supported by both land based and in-ocean testing facilities,” OWET said.

All of which is tremendous, OWET said—but the NNMREC facility won’t be grid connected, and if marine power is ever going to become a reality on the West Coast, it needs the grid connection.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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