The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued Oregon State University a license to build and operate the nation’s first pre-permitted wave energy testing facility, culminating an unprecedented regulatory process that spanned nearly 10 years.
PacWave South is the first commercial-scale, utility grid-connected test site in the United States to obtain a FERC license and will be the first marine renewable energy research facility in federal waters off the Pacific Coast.
The test site, located about seven miles offshore southwest of Newport, Oregon, will offer wave energy developers the opportunity to try different technologies for harnessing the power of ocean waves and transmitting that energy to the local electrical grid.
“This is a landmark moment for the state of Oregon, for wave energy development nationally and for Oregon State University,” said OSU President F. King Alexander. “We are excited for the future of PacWave South. This license and project would not be possible without the assistance and support of local, state and federal officials and community members who helped guide and shape PacWave South over the years.”
FERC requires the filing and final review of a series of environmental and engineering plans before construction is authorized. Those documents are nearly complete and OSU project leaders hope to obtain construction authorization later this spring. Current timelines suggest construction could begin this summer, and the facility should be operational by 2023.
“We know there is still work to do to make this project a reality, but this is a huge moment for this project and for the industry as a whole,” said Burke Hales, chief scientist for PacWave. “This is the first license of its type to be issued in the United States.”
Wave energy has the potential to provide clean, reliable electricity to help meet the world’s rising energy demands, experts say. Globally, the marine energy market is projected to reach nearly $700 billion by 2050, and the World Energy Council estimates that 10% of the worldwide electricity demand could be met by harvesting o The ocean test site will be located about seven miles offshore on a sandy-bottomed stretch of the Pacific Ocean away from popular commercial and recreational fishing reefs. The ocean site will have four different testing berths, which combined can accommodate up to 20 wave energy devices at any one time.
Power and data cables buried below the seafloor will connect the ocean test site to a shore-based facility in Seal Rock. Construction will begin with underground installation of the conduits that will house the power cables.
PacWave South is supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of Oregon and other public and private entities. Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences is managing the construction and operation of the facility.
(Source and image: Oregon State University)