NZ Wave Device First In At Oregon Test Center

The first device to hook in to the new wave energy testing site in Oregon is a New Zealand-hatched piece of machinery that was developed with the help of a $1,818,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

But before you get your knickers in a bunch over U.S. tax dollars backing Kiwi energy developers, rest assured there’s a big American component to this project. Northwest Energy Innovations, a Portland, Ore., firm, the actual recipient of the DOE grant [PDF], is a partner on the project and is leading the deployment of this second-generation device in Oregon.

wet-nz installed, oregon

WET-NZ, foreground, connected to the Ocean Sentinel (image via Northwest Energy Innovations)

And parts of the Wave Energy Technology-New Zealand device were built locally at Oregon Iron Works. (That’s the same company that’s been working on Ocean Power Technologies’ PowerBuoy, which is due to become the first grid-tied wave device to go into U.S. waters in the next several weeks.)

Testing of the WET-NZ, which is expected to last a couple of months, will help guide Northwest Energy Innovations in further developing the device — but it will do more than that, too, according to the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, based at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

“NWEI is blazing the trail for this industry in Oregon,” Sean Moran, NNMREC’s Ocean Test Facilities manager, said in a statement. “Through testing in our facility they are helping to answer core questions about wave energy for a broad community of stakeholders.”

While it’s hardly small at 18.4 meters long, the WET-NZ — which was attached to the Ocean Sentinel tester off Newport on Aug. 23 — is a half-scale model. Earlier, Northwest Energy Innovations had worked with the NNMREC to test a one-thirtieth scale model at Oregon State’s Tsunami Wave Basin.

Those tests formed the basis for the specific design of the device now getting a workout in the Pacific.

“This is a huge milestone for the WET-NZ technology, for Oregon, and for the wave energy industry as a whole,” said Justin Klure, program manager for NWEI.

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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