Oregon poised for wave energy

Sept. 7, 2012 at 12:36 PM
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REEDSPORT, Ore., Sept. 7 (UPI) -- The United States' first commercially licensed grid-connected wave energy device is in its final stage of testing before its scheduled launch next month in Oregon.

The 40-foot-wide, 260-ton PowerBuoy, developed by New Jersey company Ocean Power Technologies, will extend more than 100 feet into the sea and rise another 30 feet from the surface, The Oregonian newspaper reports.

Part of the buoy's structure is designed to move like a piston to generate the charge. From its anchorage site 2.5 miles offshore near Reedsport, Ore., the buoy will send electricity to shore via an ocean-bottom cable.

''Wave energy is essentially an accumulation of wind energy," Charles F. Dunleavy, chief executive of Ocean Power Technologies, told The New York Times, explaining that in the Northern Pacific, winds cause consistent waves and create a large area of wave energy, or fetch, for the massive buoy to capture.

Last month, OPT received a federal permit for the deployment of up to 10 wave energy devices, which the company says is enough to generate electricity for approximately 1,000 homes.

Energy development groups around the globe are closely watching the progress of the Reedsport project because its outcome could affect the flow of private investment by bigger companies that have limited themselves to on-shore projects, the Times report says.

''Wave energy is very expensive to develop and they need to see that there is a potential worldwide," said Antonio Sarmento, a professor at Lisbon Technical University and the director of the Wave Energy Center, a private non-profit group in Portugal.

"In that sense, having the first commercial deployment in the U.S. is very, very positive."

Dunleavy says that potential ideal locations for wave energy include areas off the coasts of Western Europe and South America.

Separately, a $1.5 million wave energy testing system -- the Ocean Sentinel -- began operating off the coast of Oregon near Newport in August.

Developed by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Oregon Department of Energy and the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, the Ocean Sentinel will provide a "standardized, accurate system to compare various wave energy technologies," says Sean Moran, ocean test facilities manager with NNMREC.

An editorial in The Oregonian newspaper Friday states: "Wave power, after nearly a decade of dreaming and planning, seems ready to crest. Done right, it represents Oregon's best opportunity to deliver a needed new technology that could attract private investment and show profit while demonstrating that innovation and resource conservation are compatible."

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