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Newport wins bid for wave energy test site

Modified: Monday, Jan 14th, 2013

Dock facilities at the Port of Toledo played a key role in NNMREC’s deployment last August of the $1.5-million Ocean Sentinel mobile wave energy testing device off Yaquina Head. National Northwest Marine Renewable Energy Center director Belinda Batten announced Monday that Newport and Toledo would be the home base for a $25 million deep water wave energy test site. (File photo)

NEWPORT—Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center Director Belinda Batten made a surprise announcement late Monday afternoon that Newport has been chosen to host the $25 million deep-water Pacific Marine Energy Center wave energy research site.

A committee of Lincoln County government, civic and business leaders put together a proposal in December making the case that two port facilities — one in Newport and the other in Toledo — along with marine service companies and the area’s burgeoning ocean research industry make Newport the logical home base for the PMEC deep-water test site.

The committee was meeting with Batten Monday, ostensibly to discuss issues with the group’s proposal, when she pulled out a bottle of champagne and broke the news.

After a series of meetings in communities up and down the coast last fall, NNMREC chose Reedsport and Newport as finalists for the U.S. Department of Energy backed test site.

The proposed PMEC site lies five miles due west of the Yaquina Bay south jetty. When built out it will provide testing berths for four commercial scale devices at a time and tie into the onshore electrical grid.

Lincoln County Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy (FINE) recommended the PMEC site. According to FINE members, it offers the depth needed to test large buoy devices and is not in an area used extensively by Newport’s sport and commercial fishing fleet.

Kaety Hildenbrand with Oregon State University’s Sea Grant Extension worked closely with both Reedsport and Newport committees vying for the PMEC site. One of the deciding factors Hildenbrand said was the flexibility of the site recommended by FINE.

“The site proposed by the fishing community and the site team was bigger than what was asked for,” Hildenbrand said. “That gives us some flexibility if we run into problems because there’s multiple options.”

Officials involved with a large wave test site in the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland also recommended Newport after reviewing both communities’ proposals.

“It was brought to our attention that PMEC is going to be competing on a global scale, and the external reviewers really felt Newport is better able to compete in that global marketplace than Reedsport would,” Hildenbrand said.

Full scale testing of wave energy devices currently takes place in Europe, and those sites are booked five years in advance.

In announcing plans for PMEC last year, Batten said it would be similar in scope to the Scotland site, which contributes the U.S. equivalent of $790,000 to the local economy annually.

Contact Assistant Editor Larry Coonrod at 541-265-8571 ext. 211 or email larry@newportnewstimes.com.

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