Oregon State University’s (OSU’s) Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) was awarded up to $40 million by the Department of Energy (DOE) on December 21 to create what the center calls the world’s premier wave energy test facility in Newport, Ore.

The NNMREC facility, known as the Pacific Marine Energy Center South Energy Test Site, is planned to be operational by 2020. It will be able to test wave energy converters that harness the energy of ocean waves and turn it into electricity. Companies around the world are already anticipating construction of the new facility to test and perfect their technologies, OSU officials say.

Oregon State University’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center was awarded up to $40 million by the DOE on December 21 to create a wave energy test facility in Newport. Source: OSU
Oregon State University’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center was awarded up to $40 million by the DOE on December 21 to create a wave energy test facility in Newport. Source: OSU

“We anticipate this will be the world’s most advanced wave energy test facility,” said Belinda Batten, director of NNMREC and a professor in the OSU College of Engineering. “This is a tribute to the support we received from the state of Oregon, and the efforts of many other people who have worked for the past four years—in some cases since the mid-2000s—to see this facility become a reality. It will play an integral role in moving forward on the testing and refinement of wave energy technologies.”

Those technologies, Batten said, are complex and expensive.

“These 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,” Batten said. “This facility will help answer all of those questions, and is literally the last step before commercialization.”

Wave energy technologies are slowly moving out of a period of stagnation, as POWER reported in its December 2016 issue. Swedish and Australian firms have also made recent progress.

The DOE award is subject to appropriations, federal officials said, and will be used to design, permit, and construct an open-water, grid-connected national wave energy testing facility. It will include four grid-connected test berths.

In making the award, the DOE noted that recent studies estimate that America’s technically recoverable wave energy resource ranges between approximately 900 TWh and 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. For context, approximately 90,000 homes can be powered by 1 TWh per year. This 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.”

The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center is a partnership between OSU and University of Washington and is one of three DOE-supported marine renewable energy centers.

Gail Reitenbach, PhD, editor (@GailReit, @POWERmagazine)