There are a number of renewable energy technologies currently revolving around the world’s oceans and seas. Offshore wind energy is already popular and growing in popularity around the world. Tidal energy is also coming into the mainstream as a consistent alternative to wind and solar energy. Another untapped market for renewable energy lies in wave energy.
The United Kingdom, amongst others, is heavily involved in testing wave technology and attempting to incorporate it into a renewable energy future. In the United States small companies have tested units but there has yet to be a commercial wave energy test in the U.S. until now. The government-approved wave energy device was designed by Ocean Power Technologies and is set to be placed off the coast of Oregon.
The federal government recently granted the ability to place the device off the coast of central Oregon. The government permit allows for up to 10 generators overall. The wave-energy device to be tested is 103 feet in length and weighs approximately 260 tons. All in all, the device is likely to be able to generate enough energy to power 1,000 homes.
The device will be the official first commercial wave energy device tested and connected to the grid. The device works via a large buoy which comes loaded with a computer and additional smaller devices, referred to as wave riders, which float in the water away from the buoy. The computer system of the buoy allows for adjustments for waves as the waves themselves act to move the device’s shaft up and down, thereby generating electricity. The generated electricity will be brought to land via a seabed-based cable which will be fed into the grid.
The buoy will be facing a stormy winter sea and its success or failure will likely be a turning point for U.S. wave energy technology interest. Despite the seas being rough during winter months, the seas are consistently in movement, a draw for wave energy technology. The buoy itself is said to be able to withstand a 100-year storm. Success of the Oregon project may significantly increase interest into wave technology, bringing in more investors and larger companies in order to spread it around the U.S. and the globe.
Coastal mapping is currently taking place to determine best locations for wave energy along Oregon’s coastline. Therefore if this endeavor proves successful the state of Oregon will already know prime locations to further the wave energy field.
Despite this current Oregon project being the first commercially deployed wave device, it is not the first wave energy technology launched in Oregon. Recently a New Zealand company’s prototype was tested by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center. The test, however, was a small scale device and only intended for testing, not for authentic use.