Nation’s First Utility-Scale Wave Energy: Newport’s New Pacific Marine Energy Center

Newport, Oregon will be the nation’s first utility-scale wave energy test site, the Oregon State University-based Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center announced last week. The site, called the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC), will be connected by subsea cables to the local power grid and will both test wave generation potential and monitor the environmental impacts of the system.

The first installment of funding for the project came in September 2012 with $4 million from the Department of Energy and a non-federal cost match. Supporters claim that PMEC will bring jobs and outside investments to towns up and down the Oregon coast.

“PMEC represents a major step toward the development of energy from Oregon’s ocean waters,” Jason Busch of the OregonWave Energy Trust told OSU. “I’m certain that Oregon will reap benefits from PMEC for many years to come, and the research and development performed at PMEC will help usher in this new form of reliable electricity from the sea.”

Different sites competed to be selected, and the field was eventually narrowed to Newport and Reedsport. Newport was ultimately chosen due to a variety of factors that included infrastructure, site characteristics, and the collaboration of diverse stakeholders, such as the fishing community.

The site will be located five miles offshore and the specific location will be determined within the next few months. Project leaders plan to take environmental impacts and shipping lanes into account when choosing the exact location.

by Bridget Egan