Marine Energy in Oregon
- Emerging technology
- Two test sites: one operating, one under development
- Excellent resource potential off of Oregon coast
Marine energy can be harnessed from the movement of water or wind, then generated into electricity. Learn more about marine and wave energy in our Biennial Energy Report.
Marine Energy Potential
Marine energy encompasses both wave power – i.e., power from surface waves – and tidal power, which is
obtained from the kinetic energy of large bodies of moving water. Oregon’s coast has among the best marine
energy resources in the world, making it an ideal location for developing marine energy.
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.
While there are no marine energy projects yet in commercial operation in Oregon, the state is a global leader
in the research and development of these technologies. These efforts have been led by Oregon State
University, which received a $40 million award from U.S. DOE in 2016 to develop a utility-scale, grid-connected
marine energy test site. That award followed an earlier $4 million award from U.S. DOE in 2012, which
established two test sites as part of the Pacific Marine Energy Center.
The North Energy Test Site is located two nautical miles from shore, north of Newport, and is not grid
connected. The site tests wave energy devices that are connected to the Ocean Sentinel buoy, which collects
data on the devices and is powered by the electricity generated from the attached wave energy device. The
site measures power generated and characteristics of the wind, waves, and current.
The South Energy
Test Site, rebranded
in September 2018
as PacWave, is
development as the
wave energy test
site in the United
States. PacWave is
located five nautical
miles off shore
its Draft License
Biennial Energy Report Chapter 1— Page 35
Environmental Assessment for the PacWave site to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in April 2018.
Pending approval of U.S. DOE funding from Congress, PacWave is expected to be operational by 2020 and
will be able to test utility-scale wave energy devices in the ocean. These wave generators will be connected
via subsea cable to the Central Lincoln PUD electric grid. This site will enable four separate wave energy
devices to be tested simultaneously.
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.
Learn more about energy in Oregon in our 2022 Biennial Energy Report.