Oregon’s NNMREC bags $40M to build wave energy test site

US Department of Energy has allocated $40 million to Oregon State University’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) to construct an open-water wave energy testing facility.

The NNMREC facility, known as the Pacific Marine Energy Center South Energy Test Site (PMEC-SETS) will be constructed in Newport, Oregon, and is planned to be operational by 2020.

The funding, subject to appropriations, will enable the bildout of the site that will feature four grid-connected berths where researchers can test full-scale wave energy device concepts.

Franklin Orr, Under Secretary for Science and Energy at the Energy Department, said: “Testing innovative wave energy devices at full scale in open water is an important step toward harnessing a reliable energy resource. This new facility will help us to advance the science and technology of wave energy devices, and to identify the challenges we will ultimately need to overcome in order to achieve commercial deployment.”

Prototype testing is essential to gather critical performance data to address technical risks, lower costs, and inform future designs to accelerate the commercialization and deployment of mass-produced wave energy technologies, US Department of Enegy said.

Belinda Batten, Director of NNMREC, said: “These (wave energy) devices have to perform in hostile ocean conditions; stand up to a 100-year storm; be energy efficient, durable, environmentally benign; and perhaps most important, cost-competitive with other energy sources. This facility will help answer all of those questions, and is literally the last step before commercialization.”

Recent studies estimate that technically recoverable wave energy resource in the United States ranges between approximately 900 to 1,230 TWh per year, distributed across the coast of Alaska, the West Coast, the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, according to US Department of Energy.

For context, approximately 90,000 homes can be powered by 1TWh per year, which means that even if only a few percent of the potential is recovered, millions of homes could be powered by wave energy as the technology progresses.

PMEC-SETS (Image: Oregon State University)