Photo: Construction for the PacWave South starts at Driftwood (Courtesy of PacWave)

Construction gets going on PacWave wave energy test site

Oregon State University has started construction works on a wave energy testing facility PacWave South that will be located about 11 kilometres off the coast of Newport in Oregon.

Construction for the PacWave South starts at Driftwood (Courtesy of PacWave)
Construction for the PacWave South starts at Driftwood (Courtesy of PacWave)

PacWave South will be the first commercial-scale, utility grid-connected wave energy test site in the United States.

The approximately $80 million facility will offer wave energy developers the opportunity to try different technologies for harnessing the power of ocean waves and transmitting that energy to the local electrical grid.

After many years of design, planning and permitting, construction has started at Driftwood. Oregon State Parks initiated the closure of the Park early in the morning of 1 June, and the crew from The HDD Company started prepping the site and mobilizing shipping containers and equipment.

The containers will be used to create a sound wall along the northern and western sides of the construction site, so the project does not disturb the beach.

Over the coming days, more equipment and personnel will arrive on site in preparation for the horizontal directional drilling activities, which will start mid-June, and should take place over about 10 months, said Dan Hellin, PacWave’s deputy director

Power and data cables buried below the seafloor will connect the ocean test site to a shore-based facility in Seal Rock. Construction will begin with underground installation of the conduits that will house the subsea cables.

“We also plan to have a place where the public can view the construction operations if they like, but the exact location is still being determined. An underground vault in the Driftwood parking lot will house the cable connections. When all the work is complete, the only thing visible at Driftwood will be some manhole covers. Everything else will be buried”, Hellin said.

Graphic depicting PacWave South (Courtesy of Oregon State University )
Graphic depicting PacWave South (Courtesy of Oregon State University )

Site preparation for the shore-based utility connection and monitoring facility, which operates similar to a power substation, is expected to begin in June as well.

There, wave-generated power will be conditioned, a process to ready the power so it can be added to the local power grid, which is operated by the Central Lincoln People’s Utility District.

The shore-based site is located on Northwest Wenger Lane, and construction at that site is not likely to be visible to the public.

Current timelines suggest the Wenger Lane site will be prepared this year and construction of the facilities will take place in 2022.

The installation of the subsea cables is expected to be conducted in 2022 or 2023, and the facility would begin operating after that.

With its connection to the local power grid, the PacWave South facility will provide wave energy developers with the ability to test both the efficacy of the devices as well as mechanisms for turning the energy they capture into a commodity with value on the energy market.

The testing site is located on a sandy-bottomed stretch of the Pacific Ocean away from popular commercial and recreational fishing reefs.

The ocean site will have four different testing berths, which combined can accommodate up to 20 wave energy devices at any one time.

PacWave South is supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of Oregon and other public and private entities.

Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences is managing the construction and operation of the facility.