Why a grid-connected wave energy site in Oregon?

The absence of standardized testing facilities has been identified as a key barrier to the development of the marine energy industry. Oregon is uniquely poised to fill the testing needs of the industry with its tremendous ocean energy resource, available infrastructure, technical expertise, along with and stakeholder and political support.


Where does the funding for the PacWave site come from?

In December 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) competitively awarded Oregon State University $35 million to permit, design, construct and operate a wave energy test facility. In addition to the DOE funding, Oregon State has received $3.8 million from the state of Oregon for this project. Underpinning research prior to the onset of this project was also supported by the DOE, state and other funding agencies.


Where will the PacWave site be located?

The site will be located about 7 miles off the Oregon Coast, to the southwest of Newport, on the outer continental shelf in the Pacific Ocean.


How was the PacWave site location selected?

Recognizing that community input and support are crucial to a successful project, Oregon State initiated an extensive outreach program during the technical evaluation of candidate sites. Results of the outreach process were used to narrow the candidate sites to the two communities that demonstrated the most interest in and best matched the criteria for the test site: Reedsport and Newport. In fall 2012, Reedsport and Newport each formed a Community Site Selection Team to develop proposals for a wave energy test facility, including commercial and recreational fishermen and other ocean users, tribal representatives, Central Lincoln People’s Utility District (CLPUD), Lincoln and Douglas counties, city and port representatives and the public.

In developing their proposals, the Community Site Selection Teams considered all aspects of the project, including technical criteria for the test facility, community resources, economic development, marine traffic, marine debris and salvage aspects and environmental resources. The community teams submitted their proposals in December 2012, and in January 2013 Oregon State selected Newport as the location for the wave energy test facility. The decision was based on a combination of community input and preferred site criteria, including physical and environmental characteristics, subsea and terrestrial cable route options, port and industry capabilities, potential effects on existing ocean users, permitting considerations, stakeholder participation in the proposal process and support of the local fishing communities. Since identifying the project study area off the coast of Newport, Oregon State has continued to maintain ongoing communication and coordination with the local community and the fishing industry in particular.


What is the depth range for the PacWave site?

The test site will be in between 65 to 78 meters (213 to 256 feet) of water.


What is the permitting process? 

The sea- and land-based infrastructure associated with the site will require local, state and federal regulatory approvals. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the lead federal agency for the process. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are cooperating agencies. At the end of the permitting process, Oregon State will receive a FERC license and an associated BOEM lease that is good for 25 years, unless relicenses for a longer duration are in order for the facility to stay compliant with the Energy Policy Act of 2005.


What is the relationship between marine energy and wave energy converters? 

Wave energy conversion is one type of technology that the U.S. Department of Energy is researching to generate energy from the ocean. Other examples include tidal and current energy conversion, as well as ocean thermal energy conversion technologies.


What types of wave energy converters (WECs) can be tested?

Testing of most WEC types will be allowed, including point absorbers, attenuators, oscillating water columns and hybrid devices.


How many wave energy converters will be able to be tested at the PacWave site at once?

The test site will have a maximum capacity of 20 utility-scale WECs and will have the ability to test multiple arrays of devices simultaneously. The maximum power output from the test site will be 20 megawatts.


Will Oregon State be testing its own wave energy converters?

No, the test facility is there to serve testing clients who are proving the commercial viability of WECs that they or other entities have developed.


How long can a wave energy converter be tested at the PacWave site?

Test duration will depend on the testing client’s needs and the demand for testing at that time.


Will the PacWave site be visible from land?

The test facility will be located approximately 7 miles offshore, so it is not likely that anyone will see much from land. Unlike wind turbines, WECs do not rise high above the water level, so the visual impact will be minimal.


What is a test berth? 

A test berth is a location in the ocean where a WEC (or small array of WECs) will be moored for testing. At the berth, the WEC will be connected to buried subsea cable through which electricity will be transmitted to an onshore facility, and then to the electrical grid.


Will we be able to fish within the test site?

Oregon State is not planning to restrict fishing activity within the PacWave site. However, when devices are undergoing testing, there will be buoys, subsurface floats, mooring lines, anchors and instruments deployed in the test site, making navigation difficult. It is possible the U.S. Coast Guard will advise mariners to avoid the area for safety reasons.

The test site only covers a 2-square-nautical-mile area (just under 2.7 square miles), which is negligible when compared to the waters off Oregon. While deployments may mean that boaters will avoid the area, the site was selected by fishermen and other stakeholders to minimize the effects on other ocean users.


Why should we support marine renewable energy technologies in Oregon? 

Renewable energy test facilities can support the development of new technologies and help displace nonrenewable, fossil fuel-fired power generation and contribute to a diversified mix of energy generation. Oregon State believes that once the project develops, the capital costs of wave energy will become more competitive with traditional generation sources. Testing conducted at the PacWave site will advance the development of WEC technologies and further the nation’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, diversify its energy supply, provide cost-competitive electricity to key coastal regions and stimulate revitalization of key sectors of the economy.


Other than wave energy, what are the potential benefits of the PacWave site? 

PacWave will serve as an integrated test center for wave energy testing clients to evaluate performance and ecosystem effects of a utility-scale WEC or small arrays. Clients will be able to optimize their devices and arrays and learn about deployment, retrieval, operations and maintenance, while minimizing environmental impact and increasing reliability and survivability. Additionally, the PacWave site will provide a training ground for future jobs in the ocean energy industry. The environmental clearance process and permitting for testing will be streamlined for developers testing WECs at the site.


What onshore infrastructure is needed? 

The facility will require a building near the location where the electrical cable comes onshore for equipment that will analyze and record data coming from the test berths. The electricity from the berths will then be transmitted to the electrical grid. Depending on the site and capacity, a new CLPUD sub-station may also be required.


What is the affiliation with CEOAS?

The College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS) at Oregon State is the academic home of the test site, as well as the project’s principal investigator. In this capacity, CEOAS will provide administrative and project management support.

CEOAS is an internationally recognized leader in the study of the Earth as an integrated system. It operates numerous state-of-the art analytical laboratories, core repositories and three oceanographic research vessels, the 177-foot ocean-going Oceanus, the 84-foot coastal research vessel Pacific Storm and the 54-foot coastal research vessel Elakha. The college’s annual budget of more than $50 million includes numerous research grants from the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, along with other federal agencies and philanthropic organizations. With over 100 faculty, 200 graduate students and 600 undergraduate students, the college has vibrant educational programs that span Earth system science. As evidence of its global excellence, CEOAS was awarded grants of $122 million and $88 million from the National Science Foundation to construct the new class of research vessels for the United States academic fleet.


Where can I find more information?

Currently, you can find more information at DOE’s website. We are in the process of updating our website so please check back for updates.