On Wave Power, Oregon Looks To Europe For Help

The Pacific Northwest-based group aiming to build the first grid-connected wave power test center in the United States is turning to Europe—where there’s a lot of experience on this sort of thing—for assistance.

The Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) said [PDF] today that it has selected the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to provide a development plan for the envisioned Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC).

pacific marine testing center

image via Ocean Power Technologies

The EMEC, in Orkney, Scotland, is the granddaddy of marine-power test centers. It has 14 full-scale grid-connected test berths and claims to be “home to some of the most innovative marine energy devices currently in development, with more full-scale devices having been tested at EMEC than at any other single site in the world.” Just last month Vattenfall snared the last available spot at the test center to test a Pelamis wave energy converter.

So clearly the Oregonians have a long way to go to catch up to the Europeans in developing 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 there 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. OWET says its goal is to power two Oregon communities with ocean energy by 2025.

As for the immediate future, OWET and NNMREC said project details and a timeline will be available when the contract with the EMEC is finalized.

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.