The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced the award of up to $40 million, subject to appropriations, to design, permit, and construct an open-water, grid-connected national wave energy testing facility. The facility will be constructed in Newport, Oregon, by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University and will support innovations in wave energy technologies capable of harnessing the significant wave energy resources along United States coastlines.
The new test facility, called the Pacific Marine Energy Center South Energy Test Site, will be constructed with a combination of federal and non-federal funds. The planned facility, to be completed by early 2020, includes four grid-connected berths where researchers can test full-scale wave energy conversion device concepts. Prototype testing is essential to gather critical performance data to address technical risks, lower costs, and inform future designs to accelerate the commercialization and deployment of mass-produced wave energy technologies.
The pre-permitted site was designed to meet the DOE specifications as well as industry and community needs, letting researchers focus on the technological challenges inherent in testing—instead of permitting and regulatory matters. The site is expected to be a flagship test facility for wave energy converters globally, playing a critical role in advancing wave energy technology into commercial viability.
Recent studies estimate that America’s technically recoverable wave energy resource ranges between approximately 900–1,230 terawatt hours (TWh) per year, distributed across the coast of Alaska, the West Coast, the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. For context, approximately 90,000 homes can be powered by 1 TWh per year. This means that even if only a few percent of the potential is recovered, millions of homes could be powered by wave energy as the technology progresses.