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Waves of the future

Posted: Wednesday, Mar 31st, 2010

The R/V Pacific Storm deploys a test wave energy buoy for the Oregon State University test site near Newport. Wave energy is on the verge of becoming a reality along the Oregon coast, and a recent assessment by Newport-based firm Advanced Research Corporation determines that the Oregon coast has “tremendous capability” to develop and deploy the technology. (File photo)

Firm concludes Oregon has potential to lead Northwest in ocean energy movement

Oregon has “tremendous infrastructure capability” that could make the state a leader in the rapidly emerging wave energy industry.

That’s the conclusion of a recently completed assessment by Newport firm Advanced Research Corporation (ARC). The company outlined its findings in a 130-page report commissioned by the Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET), a nonprofit public-private partnership funded by the Oregon Innovation Council in 2007 to serve as a facilitator for everyone involved in wave energy development. OWET aims to position Oregon as a leader in the industry, and develop its full economic and environmental potential for the state.

“The report validates the possible economic potential for the state, and provides invaluable information to guide our efforts to responsibly develop the wave energy industry in Oregon,” said Jason Busch, OWET executive director.

The “gap analysis” ARC prepared features information on infrastructure needs for wave energy developers worldwide, and identifies Oregon’s capabilities in the wave energy industry. Specific needs cited in the report are manufacturing, transportation, assembly, deployment, operations, maintenance, and recovery. It also lists recommendations for various agencies, organizations, and others involved in the process to overcome potential “gaps.”

“We conclude that Oregon has tremendous infrastructure capability to develop and deploy wave energy technology, not only into Oregon coastal waters, but throughout the Pacific Northwest,” said John Lavrakas, president of ARC. “Furthermore, there is more Oregon can do to prepare itself for this emerging industry.”

Wave energy development would create jobs, with many of those jobs sporadic during the early stages.

As with most new industries, Lavrakas said it would “take time for a steady stream of workforce activities to develop” as the industry moves from the current test and demonstration phase to full commercial deployments. Busch said the assessment is one of 17 completed project reports OWET would make available to the public.

Not if, but when

Make no mistake. Wave energy is already here in its nascent form, and it’s not going away.

“Wave energy is about to become a reality off the Oregon coast,” said Onno Husing, executive director of the Oregon coastal Zone Management Association (OCZMA). In the association’s January newsletter, Husing pointed out that Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. (OPT) would deploy a state-of-the-art wave energy buoy - 140 feet long, 40 feet wide, weighing 200 tons - off the shoreline near Reedsport in autumn 2010. The company, which is building the buoy in Oregon at Oregon Iron Works, Inc. in Clackamas County at a cost of $4 million, intends to deploy nine more buoys to make an array of 10 sometime in 2011. Each buoy would generate 140 kilowatts of electrical power.

Husing is immersed in the state effort to prepare a comprehensive plan - the first of its kind - for Oregon’s Territorial Sea to guide the siting of renewable energy facilities (wave energy arrays) “in a way that protects the marine environment, our fisheries, and other important uses of the ocean.”

Husing said creating a “seamless” local-state-federal planning process for offshore renewable energy for the entire West Coast “is in everyone’s interest.” For Oregon, he said state policies under Goal 19 and state statute complement federal polices under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, providing “a great platform to build on.”

After OPT deploys its buoy this year, Husing said, “We need to field a team of experienced and trusted people to review the data coming in from wave energy research and monitoring programs.” In other words, the work is just beginning.

See the report

OWET’s goal is to have ocean wave energy producing 2 megawatts of power - enough to energize about 800 homes - by 2010, and 500 megawatts of power generation by 2025. To find out more about OWET, go to www.oregonwave.org.

ARC provides research, development, and consulting expertise in air, marine, space, and land technologies. The company specializes in satellite navigation and ocean sciences and marine studies and applications, including renewable energy and ocean observation. To find out more about ARC and to get a copy of the report, go to the company website at www.oregonarc.com.

Terry Dillman is the assistant editor of the News-Times. Contact him at (541) 265-8571, ext 225, or terrydillman@newportnewstimes.com.

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