The one square-mile site will be near Newport, a couple miles off the coast from Yaquina Head. There, Oregon State University and the University of Washington are planning to host a test lab in the ocean for new wave energy technologies – the first site of its kind in the U.S. and a rarity worldwide. Independent wave energy developers will be invited to plunk their experimental devices down in the lab to see how they perform. And Hatfield Marine Science Center researchers just a few miles away will be on-hand to study the environmental impacts of the devices.
The site will be about one square mile in size, two miles northwest of Yaquina Head on the central Oregon coast, in water about 150-180 feet deep with a sandy seafloor. It is exposed to unobstructed waves that have traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean. The facility is being funded by the state of Oregon and the U.S. Department of Energy.
“If all of our plans and permits are approved, we hope to have the test facility available for wave energy developers to use by this fall,” said Annette von Jouanne, an OSU professor of electrical engineering and leader with the university’s wave energy research programs.
The site will not only allow testing of new wave energy technologies, but will also be used to help study any potential environmental impacts on sediments, invertebrates and fish. In order to simplify and expedite ocean testing, the facility will not initially be connected to the land-based electrical grid.
Testing will be done using a chartered vessel or stand-alone buoy along with the wave energy devices, and most of the technology being tested will produce its energy through the up-and-down motion of the waves. Some devices may be very large, up to 100 feet tall and with a diameter of up to 50 feet, but mostly below the water line.
“The site will not necessarily be off limits to other ocean users,” said Kaety Hildenbrand, a marine fisheries faculty member with Oregon Sea Grant. “As part of our continuing outreach to the coastal community, we plan to have a series of dialogues with safety experts and ocean users to discuss allowable uses.”