Photo: Illustration/CalWave's xWave prototype device (Courtesy of CalWave Power Technology)

United States grants $25 million for cutting-edge wave energy research

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $25 million to eight wave energy projects that will make up the first round of open-water testing at the PacWave South test site offshore Oregon.

Illustration/CalWave's xWave prototype device (Courtesy of CalWave Power Technology)
Illustration/CalWave’s xWave prototype device (Courtesy of CalWave Power Technology)

Out of eight selected projects, the largest share of funding was allocated for the testing of wave energy converter designs for use in geographically remote areas or on small, local energy grids, with CalWave Power Technologies securing $7.5 million, and Columbia Power Technologies $4.2 million for the feat.

The U.S. DOE granted multi-million funding for the development of wave energy converter designs that can be either connected to or disconnected from the electricity grid as well.

For this portion of work, Dehlsen Associates and Oscilla Power were awarded $1.8 million each.

Four additional companies and organizations were selected for funding support to perform research and development at PacWave related to environmental monitoring technologies, and instrumentation systems that operators use to control wave energy converters.

These include Integral Consulting that was awarded $380,000, Littoral Power Systems which secured close to $4 million, Portlant State University with $4.5 million, and University of Washington with $1.3 million in funding support.

These awards will strengthen wave energy technologies to accelerate their commercial viability and deploy them at scale to help decarbonize the grid and reach President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to U.S. DOE.

The U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said: “Harnessing the unrelenting power of the ocean is a clean, innovative, and sustainable way to curtail carbon pollution – benefitting American businesses and families, especially coastal communities hit hardest by the impacts of climate change.

“Diversifying and expanding our clean energy sources will usher in a new era of energy independence that makes the grid more resilient, curbs the climate crisis, and saves Americans money on their energy bills.”

Commenting on the funding support, the U.S. Senator in Oregon, Ron Wyden, said: “Wave energy is an essential piece of the strategy to combat the climate crisis, and I’m gratified that Oregon State University, Portland State University and our state will play a central role in developing this energy source to its full potential.”

Wave energy converters, which capture and convert waves into carbon-free electricity, require testing in realistic conditions to be deployed at scale.

Obstacles to testing in the open ocean include permitting challenges and a scarcity of available test sites.

In 2016, the U.S. DOE partnered with Oregon State University to build the PacWave South test facility, which will be the nation’s first accredited, grid-connected, pre-permitted, open-water wave energy test facility. 

The construction works at the PacWave South site – to be located about 11 kilometres off the coast of Newport in Oregon – are running at full speed, with the installation of subsea cables planned for mid-2023 as a final step before the facility starts operating.

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