Wave energy advocates set funding, Newport grid date goals
By Lee van der Voo
OWET's Jason Busch and other wave energy advocates believe a utility-scale grid near Newport could be hooked up in 2016.
The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center is seeking additional funding to wire its deepwater wave-testing site with electricity.
The Center’s leaders also said this week they believe 2016 will be the year wave energy developers can begin to wade into Oregon’s waters for the first utility-scale, grid-connected test site in the country.
Oregon set aside 22 square miles over four sites for wave energy development through its Territorial Sea Plan last year. However, a statewide moratorium on ocean development is still in place pending the governor’s nod on removing it.
The last legislative session saw Oregon lawmakers jockeying for safeguards first, approving a bill to make ocean energy developers responsible for cleaning up after projects. A second bill also mandated a study of how ocean transmission will be owned, regulated, and managed in Oregon, according to Jason Busch, executive director of the Oregon Wave Energy Trust.
Meanwhile, researchers from the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, the federally funded wave energy research center based at Oregon State University, are working toward wiring a grid-connected test site about 5 miles offshore from Newport. The site is designed for deepwater testing by ocean energy developers and is one of two in-water testing sites that are part of the center’s Pacific Marine Energy Center’s testing facilities.
The effort received $4 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy in January to begin the work, along with match funding from entities including OWET, Portland General Electric, Pacific Energy Ventures, Oregon BEST and other private sources.
NNMREC Director Belinda Batten said the center is now pursuing another $750,000 through a recently announced funding opportunity to further the development.
“We have funding for the predesign work and permitting meetings and the baseline studies,” said Batten, adding NNMREC is also soliciting permits for the site from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Studies of the ocean floor are being conducted by OSU faculty from environmental disciplines, she added.
But more funding will be needed to wire the area and link it to the grid, a final phase that will make it possible for OWET and NNMREC to lure developers of advanced-staged technologies to prove out concepts in Oregon as they tee up to commercialize.
“We expect to see some pretty advanced developers at this site,” Batten said.
She said she has already heard from developers looking to test now.
“I wish I could tell them next year,” she said. “It’s probably going to be 2016.”
Should the site win additional funding — a decision is expected in December — it will be the second wave energy testing facility developed by NNMREC in the last several years. The first site, dubbed the North Energy Testing Site, is not grid connected. It is about two miles offshore from Newport.
This second effort, dubbed the South Energy Testing Site or SETS, follows interest from developers in a grid-connected site for testing, preferably deeper in the ocean.
Both sites were chosen through a community process involving local fishermen.
Busch said OWET will work with industry to determine the types of services they need at the South Energy Testing Site and will survey the Pacific Northwest to determine what sort of supply chain can service test projects while funding is being secured.
“Since there is nobody going in the water right away, it makes sense to focus on the site,” he said.
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