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Marine Energy – Wave and Offshore Wind Power


Oregon has been identified as an ideal location for wave energy conversion based primarily on its tremendous wave resource and coastline transmission capacity. This combination of factors, along with Oregon State University’s research facilities and the state’s long-term commitment to renewable energy, positions Oregon to lead the nation in wave energy development.

Leading this development offers Oregon many benefits, including economic development in coastal communities, increased manufacturing opportunity, and further recognition for Oregon’s renewable energy industry.

The Oregon Department of Energy hosted a webinar on the basics of offshore wind power on January 22. The intended audience for this webinar was decision-makers, energy industry practitioners, utilities and people with a renewable energy background. The webinar featured two presentations:
  • Bruce Hamilton offered a summary of the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2014 Offshore Wind Market and Economic Analysis Report. His presentation discussed the state of the offshore wind sector internationally and in the Atlantic, policy developments and a recent economic impact case study.
  • Chris Elkinton presented an overview of offshore wind technologies, including turbines, anchoring and mooring, power cabling and the development trajectory for deep-water floating wind.
  • Rebecca O'Neil (Introductory presentation) of the Oregon Department of Energy was the moderator.
Webinar recording (registration required)
State Policy on Marine Energy

Oregon’s statewide plans and statutes recognize marine energy as an important emerging industry for our state.

The Governor’s 10-Year Energy Action Plan (2012) says: “Responsibly sited wave energy has significant potential not only to provide additional resources to power Oregon, but to create a business cluster and models that can be exported to other states and countries around the world. The state is committed to developing a regulatory structure that is useful and provides clear guidelines for developing wave energy facilities off of the Oregon coast.”

State laws, such as our Renewable Portfolio Standards, expressly include ocean energy as an eligible resource and encourage all agencies to support community-scale marine energy.

In 2007, the Oregon Innovation Council selected wave energy as an economic innovation focus. As a result of funding from the OIC, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, a non-profit, public-private partnership was established. OWET’s goal is responsible development of wave energy projects in Oregon.

Energy Opportunity

There is a lot of power in Oregon’s ocean.

According to a 2011 study by the Electric Policy Research Institute, Oregon’s total annual available wave energy in the inner shelf alone is equal to 143 terawatt-hours per year (TWh/yr), or 143 billion kilowatt-hours per year (KWh/yr). That's equal to six Grande Coulee dams and enough energy to power 28 million homes.

Oregon has twice the inner shelf resource than Washington (inner shelf refers to notional 50-meter depth). The outer shelf (notional 200-meter depth contour) has another 179 TWh/year.

We will never pull all of the available power from the ocean, but strong resource potential is one of the principal reasons why developers look to Oregon. At the same time, the ocean’s extraordinary power means that durability and survivability of mechanical devices in marine environments are key performance requirements.

Why are marine renewable energy projects valuable to the Oregon coast?

The Oregon coast has no significant electric generating resources. Almost all of the electricity consumed on the Oregon coast is brought across the state from eastern Oregon and eastern Washington.

As a result, the Oregon coast is a system “sink” – costly infrastructure investments such as voltage boosters are required to get enough power to the end of the line. All transmission lines to the coast are vitally important to deliver electricity and disruptions have a cascading effect. Industrial growth is limited by the inability to deliver much more power to the coast.

  • Coastal electricity loads vary from 500 megawatts (summer) to 900 megawatts (winter).
  • Modeled estimates show that the coastal grid could absorb 430 megawatts of new distributed energy generation without requiring infrastructure upgrades to cross-coast range transmission.
Marine renewable energy projects are also valuable because the power production is expected to be stable. While solar and wind installations have many unique benefits, the sun cycles on and off daily and wind can ramp up or down quickly. Ocean waves and winds are relatively constant and change seasonally. Predictability is very important to utilities and electric grid

Within three nautical miles of the state coastline is the Oregon Territorial Sea. The territorial sea and seafloor are considered under the jurisdiction of the state. Beyond the territorial sea boundary is the Outer Continental Shelf, which is under federal jurisdiction.

Regulation of marine renewable energy depends on whether the project is in Oregon’s waters or federal waters. If the project is located in Oregon’s Territorial Sea, it must follow the regulatory structure laid out in Part 5 of the Territorial Sea Plan, adopted by the state in January 2013. In addition to establishing standards and process for marine energy projects, it directs regulating agencies engaged in siting in the territorial sea to “[e]ncourage the research and responsible development of ocean-based renewable energy sources including wave, tidal, and wind that meet the state’s need for economic and affordable sources of renewable ocean energy.”

Many state permits and standards govern the siting and development of marine renewable energy in the territorial sea. A project must meet ecological, fisheries and visual aesthetic standards as well as go through the typical challenges of developing a new technology, installing a power project, delivering power to a customer and interconnecting with the electric grid.

If a project is in federal waters, it must receive a lease from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

In either federal or state waters, a wave energy project must receive a license from the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission. FERC only governs water-driven power plants; an offshore wind power project is not required to receive a license from FERC.  A federal energy license is also not required if the project is installed in the ocean without being connected to the grid.
For a comprehensive overview on applicable regulations, please see the Ocean Renewable Energy Regulatory Handbook. This resource describes required federal authorizations as well as authorizations in most coastal states.

Active Projects

Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, South Energy Test Site (Newport)

Oregon State University’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center is the primary testing center for wave energy device development in the United States.

In January 2013, the center selected Newport as the “South Energy Test Site” (SETS) of the Pacific Marine Energy Center. SETS will be located about five miles from shore and will be the second facility in the world where full-scale devices can plug into the electricity grid.

In addition to the proposed facility, NNMREC currently offers indoor wave energy testing equipment for early stage designs at Hinsdale labs in Corvallis, as well as the North Energy Test Site (NETS), a square mile located off the coast of Newport. [Map]

Floating test equipment called the Ocean Sentinel, deployed in summer months, tests the performance of a reduced-scale energy device.

Principle Power, WindFloat (Coos Bay)

Principle Power is proposing to install five, 6-megawatt floating wind devices about 13 miles off the shore of Coos Bay. The developer has requested an offshore lease from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. To review the leasing status, visit BOEM’s Oregon website


Oregon Military Department, Camp Rilea (Warrenton)

The Oregon Army National Guard operates Camp Rilea near Warrenton. The military is interested in becoming energy independent as well as marking the boundary of the Military Danger Zone (MDZ), a significant area of ocean dedicated for military purposes. The Territorial Sea Plan marked a block of ocean from Camp Rilea’s shoreline to the Territorial Sea Line as a Renewable Energy Facility Suitability Study Area (referred as #1 in the maps), to help the military with future projects. The site is sandy and relatively, shallow compared to central and south coast sites, and will offer opportunities for a different class of energy devices.    
Device Technologies

Marine renewable energy – wave energy and offshore wind – is an exciting new component of renewable energy development. Wave energy devices come in many forms. Some devices are better suited for deep waters, some for shallow waters, and some are intended to be mounted on shore infrastructure like jetties. Some devices install power equipment and produce electricity directly, others generate pressure in a pipe to power an on-shore generator.

While offshore wind energy will eventually take place in Oregon, the shallow depths and policy regimes of the east coast have made New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts the state pioneers of offshore wind development. Benefits of offshore wind include mature technology with standardized manufacturing and engineering design, high power conversion rates, a consistent wind resource, and better-understood environmental effects. Because the seafloor is much deeper in Oregon, offshore wind installations will be platform-based.

Ocean thermal energy conversion is not considered a suitable application in Oregon’s waters.

For more information on these topics, please contact the Oregon Department of Energy’s Julie Peacock at 503-373-2125.