CORVALLIS, Ore. – With the support of new funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) will expand its technological research and environmental monitoring efforts, and add a new partner – the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The center was previously a partnership of Oregon State University and the University of Washington, but will now collaborate with experts in Alaska, a state with some of the greatest wave and tidal energy resources in the nation. The partnership will also enable researchers to learn more about the energy potential of large, flowing rivers.
The DOE announced last week that it will contribute up to $4 million for continued NNMREC research programs, and that NNMREC faculty will also share in another $3.25 million grant to improve “water power” technologies that convert the energy of waves, tides, rivers and ocean currents into electricity.
“We’re extremely excited about the opportunity to add Alaska Fairbanks to our program,” said Belinda Batten, director of NNMREC and a professor in the OSU College of Engineering.
“Alaska has an enormous energy resource, both in its coastal waves, tidal currents and powerful rivers,” she said. “Partnering with Alaska Fairbanks will allow us to expand the scope of our energy research and tap into additional expertise, to more quickly move wave, tidal, and river energy closer to commercial use.”
The new funding will allow NNMREC to develop an improved system for real-time wave forecasting; create robotic devices to support operations and maintenance; design arrays that improve the performance of marine energy conversion devices; improve subsea power transmission systems; and standardize approaches for wildlife monitoring. Federal officials said the overall goal is to reduce the technical, economic and environmental barriers to deployment of new marine energy conversion devices.
“Oregon State University has been a world leader in developing wave energy technology and it’s great that the Department of Energy has recognized this fact in awarding this grant,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, who helped obtain the new federal support for these programs.
“Along with its university partners in Washington and Alaska, this funding will help ensure that the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center remains an important national center for ocean energy development not just for the Northwest, but for the entire country.”
Other steps have been taken recently by NNMREC to advance wave energy. They include:
- The North Energy Test Site, located just north of Newport, Ore., is operational, and a mobile instrumentation buoy, the Ocean Sentinel, can be used to monitor and test wave energy conversion devices.
- A $750,000 grant from the Department of Energy is helping the center continue its engineering design and planning for the South Energy Test Site, located just south of Newport. This will be a grid-connected, wave energy test facility that will use the power generated by conversion devices while assisting in their testing and development.
- The two test sites together will function as the offshore wave energy facilities for the Pacific Marine Energy Center, and will be the leading facilities of this type in the United States.
- Significant progress has been made in how to process, permit and monitor wave energy technology as it emerges from the laboratory to ocean test sites, and ultimately to commercial use.
- Experts are working to anticipate some of the various types of wave energy devices that may be created and determine what types of environmental monitoring may be required when they are deployed.
- As part of the regulatory process for the South Energy Test Site, NNMREC is collaborating closely with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the National Marine Fisheries Services and more than a dozen other state and federal agencies.
- Work is also continuing on environmental monitoring, characterization of the wave resource in this area, improved control systems for wave energy devices, testing of a mooring system, and other initiatives.
- Studies are examining the sociological, biological and ecosystem effects of wave energy systems.
The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that the potential total recoverable wave energy resource along the U.S. continental shelf edge is almost one third of the total electricity used in the U.S. each year.
Wave energy’s sustainable generating potential equates to about 10 percent of global energy needs.