PacWave (formerly known as the Pacific Marine Energy Center South Energy Test Site) is an Energy Department-funded, grid-connected, full-scale test facility for wave energy conversion technologies—the first of its kind in the United States. The site is currently being developed off the coast of Newport, Oregon, by faculty and staff in the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS) at Oregon State University (OSU). The Energy Department announced the selection of the OSU-led team to develop the facility in December 2016 and initial operation and testing is expected by 2025.
The test facility will be able to accommodate up to twenty wave energy converters (WEC)—devices that convert wave energy into electricity—in four separate test berths simultaneously. Each berth will have a dedicated transmission cable and the site will be generally pre-permitted for a variety of WEC technologies. WECs are one range of devices in the Energy Department’s research and development portfolio that generate energy from the ocean. Others include tidal and current energy converters as well as ocean thermal energy conversion technologies. These devices are part of a collective suite of marine renewable energy technologies that convert the energy of waves, tides, and river and ocean currents into electricity.
The test site will provide a grid-connected platform for advanced testing of utility-scale wave energy converters in a high-energy, open-coast environment. Transitioning wave energy technologies to full-scale commercialization requires both in-water tests of performance and efficiency and extended demonstrations of reliability, operations, and maintenance in an open-ocean, grid-connected operational site. Improved environmental monitoring systems coupled with a 25-year Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) operating license will help expedite the testing process at reduced costs for technology developers. The ability to more quickly and cost-effectively test devices and demonstrate iterative design improvements will allow technology developers to more rapidly improve performance, drive down costs, and attract investment and financing for future projects.
Marine renewable energy technologies are still at relatively early stages of development. Fundamental scientific and engineering challenges of generating power from dynamic, low-velocity and high-density waves and currents while surviving in corrosive ocean environments present significant barriers to advancing the marine energy industry. The Energy Department’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) supports testing infrastructure to enable technology development by industry at multiple scales. The PacWave site will enable technology developers to prove device performance in dynamic wave environments for long periods of time-thereby, demonstrating technical viability, determining methods for cost reduction, and advancing technologies toward cost-effective power delivery and commercial readiness.
DOE Selects OSU Team to Develop PacWave Facility: Winter, 2016
Submit FERC Preliminary Draft License Application: Spring, 2018
Submit Final FERC License Application: Winter, 2018
OSU Receives Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Lease: Winter, 2021
OSU Receives FERC License: Spring, 2021
Construction Begins: Spring, 2021
Site Anticipated to be Operational: 2025
The test site will be owned and operated by OSU who will function as the leading organization for overall project management and task execution.
Based in Orkney, Scotland, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) was one of the first facilities of its kind in the world established to test both wave and tidal energy devices and provide purpose-built, accredited open-sea testing facilities. EMEC operates to relevant test laboratory standards (ISO/IEC 17025) enabling the Centre to provide independently-verified performance assessments, and is accredited to ISO/IEC 17020 offering independent Environmental Technology Verification (EMEC-ETV) to help innovative technologies reach the market. Beyond technology testing and verification, EMEC provides a wide range of consultancy and research services, and is at the forefront in the development of international standards for marine energy. As a similar facility, EMEC has partnered with OSU to provide technical expertise and to share their experience operating a test centre.
Partner Role: Program support for development of the Utility Connection and Monitoring Facility, environmental monitoring data management, accredited quality standards for performance testing, quality systems and safety procedures, facility operations and maintenance (O&M) protocols, guidance and best practices for nonaccredited systems, and business development and sustainable operations.
Operating globally from a hub in Scotland, Aquatera provides environmental expertise and operational support for offshore, coastal, and land-based activities. Clients range from multinational corporations and national governments to individuals and community groups. Aquatera operates in more than 30 countries.
Partner Role: Program support for accredited quality standards for performance testing, quality systems and safety procedures, facility O&M protocols, guidance and best practices for nonaccredited systems, and business development and sustainable operations.
Pacific Energy Ventures (PEV) is a renewable energy consulting firm specializing in project development and technology demonstration. With extensive experience in all aspects of the hydrokinetic sector, PEV excels at project development, advancing new market concepts, and commercializing early-stage technologies.
Partner Role: Permitting, grid interconnection, and business development and sustainable operations.
3U Technologies LLC provides international business consulting, project management and engineering, and engineering design services across a broad range of technologies including submarine cable; terrestrial communications networks; underwater equipment, tools, and operations; horizontal directional drilling; marine operations; and offshore alternative energy—as well as many others.
Partner Role: Subsea cables and connectors, cable landing site and horizontal directional drilling, connection between the beach manholes and the Utility Connection and Monitoring Facility, and grid interconnection.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is the only U.S. national laboratory solely dedicated to advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency. NREL’s water program leverages decades of experience in wind energy, marine energy, and distributed and hybrid energy system research and development—along with a world-class laboratory validation infrastructure—to further U.S. Department of Energy goals to increase performance and reliability and lower the cost of marine energy and hydropower technologies.
Partner Role: Grid interconnection, accredited quality standards for performance testing, quality systems and safety procedures, facility O&M protocols, guidance and best practices for nonaccredited systems, and business development and sustainable operations.
Williwaw Engineering provides electrical and test engineering consulting to the marine and hydrokinetics industry. They specialize in the electrical design, instrumentation, and ocean testing of wave energy converters. Their clients include both private wave energy converter developers and research institutions.
Partner Role: Electrical infrastructure design, grid interconnection.
H. T. Harvey & Associates provides specialized ecological consulting services, including permitting, environmental analysis, compliance support, and ecological research. The company’s highly trained ecologists and professionals apply their expertise in fish and aquatic ecology, wildlife ecology, restoration ecology, plant ecology, and landscape architecture to create ecologically sound solutions to clients’ complex natural resource challenges.
Partner Role: Permitting and ecological support.
For more than a century, HDR has partnered with clients to shape communities and push the boundaries of what’s possible. Their expertise spans 10,000 employees in more than 225 locations around the world. HDR’s engineering, architecture, environmental, and construction services bring an impressive breadth of knowledge to every project.
Partner Role: Permitting.
Stoel Rives is a leader in corporate, energy, environmental, intellectual property, labor & employment, land use & construction, litigation, natural resources, real estate, renewable energy and technology law.
Partner Role: Permitting.
Frequently Asked Questions
How will the test site be connected to the grid?
The WECs will be connected to the Central Lincoln Public Utility District grid via buried cables, one cable per berth, and a shore-based monitoring facility.
Where will the site be located?
Roughly six nautical miles off the Oregon coast, southwest of Newport, Oregon, in the Pacific Ocean.
What did the competitive selection process entail?
In 2013, the Pacific Marine Energy Center and the California Wave Test Center were both selected as Energy Department Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOAs) awardees. These FOAs allowed projects to begin design and permitting of deep-water, high-energy, open-ocean test facilities with the ability to test multiple devices and arrays simultaneously. A second competitive FOA was released for final design, final permitting, construction and initial operations in August 2016, and the Pacific Marine Energy Center was selected in December 2016.
What types of wave energy converters can be tested?
Testing of most WEC types will be allowed, including point absorbers, attenuators, oscillating water columns, and hybrid devices.
Wave energy converters are one of a range of devices that the Energy Department is researching to generate energy from the ocean. Other examples include tidal and current energy converters as well as ocean thermal energy conversion technologies. These devices are collectively referred to as MHK technologies.
What is the expected depth range for the test site?
The test site will be in water between 65 to 78 meters (213 to 256 feet) deep.
How many WECs will be able to be tested at the site at once?
The test site will have a maximum capacity of 20 utility-scale WECs and will have the ability to test multiple arrays of wave energy devices simultaneously. The maximum power output from the test site will be 20 megawatts.
Are all WECs pre-permitted to test at the site?
In cases where the federal government is providing funding in support of the testing efforts, there may still be additional regulatory processes or consultation needed prior to testing. Data collected at the site will be shared to help accelerate the process for permitting at other test sites to help streamline future planning efforts for testing.
How long will the FERC license and associated Bureau of Ocean Energy Management lease be for?
Twenty-five years, unless relicensed for a longer duration in order for the facility to stay compliant with The Energy Policy Act of 2005.
What is PMEC?
The Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC) is a partnership between the University of Washington, Oregon State University, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. One of four U.S. Department of Energy-funded national marine energy centers, the mission of PMEC is to facilitate commercialization of marine energy technology, inform regulatory and policy decisions, and close key gaps in scientific understanding. Each university within PMEC has different types of testing facilities and capabilities, with OSU operating PacWave. For additional information on other test sites operated by OSU as well as by the University of Washington and University of Alaska Fairbanks, please visit PMEC’s facilities page.
Types of Wave Energy Converters
Point absorbers: Floating or submerged structures with components at or near the ocean surface that capture energy from the motion of waves, which drives a generator. Point absorbers may be fully or partly submerged. They typically have a relatively small surface area compared to the wave length.
Attenuators: Structures that respond to the curvature of the waves rather than the wave height. These WECs may consist of a series of semisubmerged sections linked by hinged joints. As waves pass along the length of the WEC, the sections move relative to one another. The wave-induced motion of the sections is captured and used to drive a generator.
Oscillating water columns (OWC): Structures that are partially submerged and hollow, open to the sea below the water line and enclosing a column of air on top of a column of water. Waves cause the water column to rise and fall, which in turn compresses and decompresses the air column. This air is allowed to flow to and from the atmosphere via a turbine, which usually has the ability to rotate regardless of the direction of the airflow.
Hybrid: WEC types that utilize use two or more of the above-listed technology types. For example, some devices that are the relative size and shape of a point absorber may generate power through movements that resemble an attenuator. Another example is a class of devices with moving masses that are internal to a hull with no external moving parts exposed to the ocean. The vertical-axis pendulum WEC is such a device; it has a structural hull that contains all moving parts; inside, a pendulum rotates due to the kinetic energy of the ocean waves.