Oregon State University (OSU) has completed the design phase of PacWave South, the first accredited, grid-connected, prepermitted wave energy test facility in the United States, and will soon initiate procurement and construction. Funded by WPTO, OSU submitted a Final License Application and an Applicant Prepared Environmental Assessment to FERC in May 2019 to secure a 25-year license authorizing construction and operation of the 20-MW wave energy test facility.

In April 2020, FERC published a notice of an environmental assessment and a Finding of No Significant Impact for PacWave South, which was finalized following a 45-day public comment period. This was a major milestone in the licensing process, as it provided confirmation that the test site’s planned construction, installation, and eventual operations would bear as little environmental effect as possible. OSU also completed the final engineering design requirements for the test site, which includes technical specifications for key components such as the subsea cable system, grid interconnection, and utility connection and monitoring facility (UCMF), which will transmit wave-energy-produced power to the local utility grid. These accomplishments establish the framework for site construction to begin in 2021, with operations expected to commence in 2022.

Aerial view of PacWave’s future location and connections to shore.
Aerial view of PacWave’s future location and connections to shore.
Courtesy of OSU

To connect the power generated by future developers at PacWave with the local land-based utility system and to analyze the performance of each wave energy device, the OSU team will lead the installation and maintenance of subsea power and data cables running from the test site 7 miles off the coast of Newport, Oregon. However, it will be the test clients’ responsibility to connect their wave energy devices to the subsea cables via umbilical cables. Although conventional umbilical cables often do not meet the needs of wave energy technologies, work led by NREL and PNNL in partnership with Delmar Systems Inc. and the University of Southampton aims to advance the design of cost-effective umbilical cables for wave energy converters (WECs) that can better meet needed strength and design life requirements. This work will advance designs and tools for power and communication umbilicals that connect floating WECs to subsea transmission cables, which should help developers connect to the grid more effectively.

The PacWave South subsea cable system design, which was developed by engineering consultants 3U Technologies LLC, includes a dedicated subsea cable for each of the four WEC test berths rated for power transmission of up to 5 MW each. The cables will provide data connectivity between developers’ WEC systems and the UCMF via 12 fiber-optic elements per cable. An auxiliary, fifth subsea cable will provide power and fiber-optic data connectivity from the UCMF to support the research and development of associated marine energy technology, ocean and environmental research, and activities that support the Powering the Blue Economy initiative. The cables will run below the seafloor for 9–12 miles from depths of 260 feet at the offshore test berth to a shore landing site at Driftwood Beach State Recreation Site. Splice vaults, or beach manholes, will serve to connect the subsea cables to terrestrial cables for onward transmission to the UCMF.

An illustration of PacWave showing its location offshore. Please contact the webmaster for assistance reading the information in this photograph.
Illustration showing the PacWave South wave energy test facility.
Courtesy of OSU

As the future base for test site operators and visiting developers, designs for the UCMF were also completed in 2019. OSU worked alongside project partners, such as Williwaw Engineering, David Evans & Associates, and HGE Inc., to develop and finalize the surveying, engineering, planning, and architectural work needed to enable construction. Following purchase of the UCMF property in March 2019, plans for 2021 include the construction of a 1.2-acre facility designed to accommodate three buildings: a power conditioning building; a switch gear building; and a data, control, and communications center. Within the power conditioning building, each of four developer bays will be able to accommodate two 40-foot shipping containers for proprietary equipment and other materials. Conditioned power will then run through the switch gear building and into the Central Lincoln People’s Utility District power grid.

In addition, the data, control, and communications center will provide site operators and developers with control rooms, communications equipment, data storage capabilities, and other support facilities. A Request for Proposals was issued in early 2020 seeking firms to provide construction and engineering services for terrestrial and marine horizontal directional drill bores and underground construction at this location and the shore landing. Construction will commence once the final FERC license is officially granted.

Once completed, the UCMF site will serve as a base for operations and monitoring of device testing. The four PacWave test berths will have a combined peak capacity of 20 MW. As the test site gears up for construction, the PacWave team is reaching out to developers to secure spots before the site opens for business.

For additional information, contact Justin Klure.

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