Oregon State University’s PacWave renewable energy project is almost ready to begin deploying generators in the waters off the coast near Waldport. If it’s approved at an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality public teleconference hearing on May 14, a space will be established to test various designs for wave-action generators.
Such a space will enable engineers to test different designs without having to go through the entire permit-seeking process for each one separately. This will make it possible to develop a practical and efficient wave-energy system quickly and cheaply, allowing utilities to retire polluting coal and natural gas power plants sooner.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had earlier asked PacWave to modify its design to reduce potential impact on wildlife habitat on shore and on the sea floor.
The Oregon Department of Fish n Wildlife had expressed specific concern to the FERC about a possible danger to a threatened shorebird, the snowy plover, and about the possibility that securing electrical transmission cables to the rocky seafloor might have a harmful “scour effect” on seafloor habitat. FERC rejected those requests, insisting that they would be too expensive and that ODFW’s concerns about environmental impact and possible harm to fishing were exaggerated.
ODFW did not comment further on the subject, while PacWave representatives said they were satisfied with FERC’s conclusions.
Construction of the facility could begin late this Summer, and be finished in 2022, but it is uncertain which wave-energy companies will first take advantage of it. PacWave knows of four companies seeking Federal Department of Energy funding for development of designs, and all four could install their designs off the Oregon coast for testing at once, but no company has yet made a firm commitment.
By John M. Burt