Oregon's waves have draw from near and far

Mason Walker

Mason Walker is associate editor of SustainableBusinessOregon.com and new media manager for the Portland Business Journal.

In 1967, former Gov. Tom McCall passed the landmark Oregon Beach Bill – a formal document granting Oregonians "free and uninterrupted use of the beaches." When passing the bill, he likely envisioned beach-goers, surfers, hikers and campers taking advantage of Oregon's piece of the Pacific Coast.

It's harder to believe that he envisioned that same coast taking shape as a global epicenter of the burgeoning wave energy industry.

Yet 44 years later, here we are.

Last week saw Portland play host to the Ocean Renewable Energy Conference. After attending last year's conference, I was eager this year to re-gauge Oregon's role in this maturing energy sector.

In its sixth year, the two-day event featured a comprehensive program of panels and speakers, all surrounded by exhibitors showcasing the latest wave energy harvesting machines and groundbreaking technologies. The program is quite technical too — this year's topics ranged from a presentation on transmission grid requirements to a panel on the state of the global energy mix.

But this year featured something different.

Over all of the thick industry jargon and policy debates, it was clear that something had changed.

I first noticed it when a well-dressed group began circling the room, sharing enthusiastic handshakes and business cards. I later learned they were EMOVE, a Portuguese startup with a proprietary wave energy machine.

The theme continued when I visited the exhibitor table of Hann–Ocean. The well-funded company from Singapore also has a proprietary wave energy device, as well as an ambitious solar/wave/wind/tidal hybrid concept under patent.

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