Wave energy moves forward in Oregon

Wave energy backers in Oregon – who hope to see the state become the center for the technology’s development in the US – were celebrating on Friday.

Why? Well, because the state’s Land Conservation and Development Commission voted to adopt a territorial sea plan that includes four areas where energy development will be encouraged.

The plan was accepted after several years of consultations involving stakeholders, including fishing interests who were particularly sensitive to the possibility of energy development in the territorial sea, defined as the waters and seabed extending three miles out from the coastline.

Jason Busch, executive director of the Ocean Wave Energy Trust, a public-private group the supports wave energy development in the state, said getting this new plan in place was a big deal.

“OWET believes the Territorial Sea Plan is a great step forward for Oregon,” Busch said in a statement. “It strikes the correct balance between promoting the nascent ocean renewable energy industry and protecting the ocean and its users. Additionally, it provides a clear regulatory pathway for developers, and provides adequate space to support multiple technologies in areas specifically intended for wave energy development.”

The plan adopted for siting ocean energy development in Oregon waters is akin to the federal government’s recently adopted policy for large-scale solar projects in the desert Southwest: except for some exclusion areas, developers can propose sites wherever they like, but outside the four preferred areas they will have to meet more stringent standards for protecting ecological resources, fishing and other existing uses, and coastal views.

Oregon is home to the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, based at Oregon State University. Last fall, the NNMREC deployed the Ocean Sentinel, a small-scale ocean test buoy platform. Then earlier this month the cener announced it had selected Newport, Ore., as the site of the Pacific Marine Energy Center, the country’s first utility-scale, grid-connected test site.

The Department of Energy last September seeded the effort to build the PMEC with a $4 million grant, to be matched by outside funds. More funding will be needed over the course of the several years needed to complete the PMEC, but regional leaders are driving hard to make it a reality.

In addition, this spring, Ocean Power Technologies says it will deploy its commercial, utility-scale PowerBuoy wave energy device two and a half miles off the coast near the town. OPT, based in New Jersey, is the first company to be fully licensed to run a grid-connected wave power array in the United States.

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling