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