Energy in Oregon

Marine energy can be harnessed from the movement of water or wind, then generated into electricity.
Marine Energy Potential

Marine Energy

Oregon’s coast is an ideal location for harnessing marine energy – think ocean waves, tides, currents and wind – because the state has significant potential and solid coastline transmission capacity. According to a 2011 study by the Electric Power Research Institute, Oregon’s total annual available wave energy in the inner shelf alone is equal to 143 billion kilowatt-hours per year – enough energy to power about 28 million homes.

Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard recognizes marine energy as an eligible resource. 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 was established with the goal of responsible development of wave energy projects in Oregon.


Energy and Transmission Needs

Most of Oregon’s electricity demand is west of the Cascades, while much of the electricity generation is east of the Cascades in the form of hydroelectric dams and fossil-fuel plants. Transmission lines that cross the Coast Range are all owned by the Bonneville Power Administration and transfer power east-to-west. There is no significant power generation on the coast to bolster those lines. Local generating resources could safeguard the system against problems such as outages and overloads, and preserve a local utility’s ability to deliver electricity to its customers.

Marine energy projects can provide more consistant power production than solar or land-based wind because they are relatively constant and change seasonally. The potential for generating wave energy off of Oregon’s coast is strongest during the winter months, which coincides with peak electricity demand in coastal communities. Wind patterns over the ocean are typically stronger and more consistent than wind patterns on land. These winds have the potential of producing steady energy and significantly larger amounts of electricity than land-based wind installations, even with increased wind speeds of only a few miles per hour.



Within three nautical miles of the state's coastline is the Oregon Territorial Sea, which is under state jurisdiction. Beyond the Territorial Sea boundary is the Outer Continental Shelf, which is under federal jurisdiction.

If a marine energy project is located in Oregon’s Territorial Sea it must follow the regulatory structure laid out in Part 5 of the Territorial Sea Plan, in addition to other state permits and standards. If a project is in federal waters, it must receive a lease from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.


Industry Activity

While wave energy has great potential both off the Oregon coast and worldwide, the wave energy industry is still in early stages of development. Industry challenges include difficulty capturing the energy in a usable form, the harsh marine environment, deployment costs, and competing uses of sea space.

Oregon State University’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center has become 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 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 electrical grid.​​

Renewable Energy Development Grants​

​Contact the Planning & Innovation Team: