OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Marine energy center to help test newest technologies

03/07/2011

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University this month is helping a private company test its latest technology, another step forward for the work of this center and evolution of the field of wave energy.

Design, analysis and permit work is also continuing for what will be the world’s first site for testing wave energy devices in the Pacific Ocean near Newport, Ore. And a range of faculty and students are involved in comprehensive research and outreach to help bring wave energy closer to a working reality.

The latest project of the marine energy center is assisting Neptune Wave Power, a Dallas, Texas, firm, in testing the motion and power output of its new and patented wave energy technology – in which wave action would cause a horizontal pendulum to rotate and drive an electric generator. These tests will be run during March at the Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory at OSU.

“Eventually, the combination of the new test berth , the two wave basins on our campus and our wave energy linear test bed will provide some of the best facilities in the world to evaluate and test wave energy devices,” said Annette von Jouanne, an OSU professor of electrical engineering and leader in wave energy research.

A range of other projects is also moving ahead under the leadership of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, according to Meleah Ashford, program manager. Studies are under way in advanced wave forecasting, device and array optimization, device reliability and survivability, environmental effects, social impacts, and other topics.

“There are tremendous opportunities for wave energy but still many challenges,” Ashford said. “The development and evolution of this technology is moving at a careful and steady pace, in part because we want to be very responsible, consider all the issues and perfect the best technologies. We’re particularly pleased that more companies are now taking advantage of our facilities, which are unique in their ability to test new technologies at smaller scales,” Ashford said. “Broad industry participation such as this is a key part of what the marine energy center is designed to encourage.”

Among recent wave energy developments:

  • OSU has evaluated a range of “direct drive” wave buoy technologies that university researchers believe may have potential for optimal energy performance and survivability.
  • The OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore., will continue to evolve as a leader in environmental studies for wave energy.
  • OSU experts through the Department of Sociology and Oregon Sea Grant Extension program are taking national leadership roles in how to work with coastal residents, the fishing community, and other stakeholders to consider a wide range of social needs and concerns.
  • In addition to engineering and environmental issues, more than 15 OSU graduate students are investigating such topics as the socioeconomic influences on wave energy permitting, ocean zoning, community perceptions and other topics.
  • OSU has worked with 10 or more private companies to assist them with research, testing, technology evaluation or other needs.

Oregon has one of the largest wave energy resources of any state in the nation, experts say.

The technological research, testing, environmental assessments, and public outreach being coordinated by OSU and the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center are seen as the key to developing that potential.

The marine energy center is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and is a collaboration of OSU and the University of Washington. OSU’s research efforts are focused on wave energy and the University of Washington on tidal energy.