Oregon State University’s Kaety Hildenbrand says the university will be getting into the wave energy testing business late this summer off Yaquina Head. They will begin a program to help wave energy companies determine whether their devices are robust enough to generate sufficient wave energy that can eventually be connected to the power grid on shore. Hildenbrand told Lincoln County Commissioners Wednesday that they have one company already signed up for testing their device by late summer.
Hildenbrand says private wave energy companies are looking to OSU and other major U.S. universities, with deep scientific competencies, to validate and document the performance of their devices. She said the devices will be moored off Yaquina Head and will be connected by wire to a small craft that will record data from the device.
In the meantime, debate continues over where wave energy devices should be placed. Commercial fishing interests are concerned that such devices scattered over wide areas of coastline could lock-out fishing vessels from prime fishing grounds, not to mention the visual degradation of what was a natural blue ocean now pock-marked with acres upon acres of wave energy devices. Others are concerned about the visual blight on beaches as major cable landings on shore transfer power to the grid. They point to the near-destruction of certain views along the Columbia Gorge that huge wind towers have caused in the country’s rush to generate green energy at “all costs” including to the taxpayer since tax breaks are the only thing, so far, that makes wind energy financially feasible. Wind as well as wave energy also pose problems for regional power distribution systems since these two energy sources occur at unpredictable intervals. With the northwest power grid frequently maxed out, when wind and wave energy are substantially contributing to the overall flow of electricity, other power plants would have to back down so as to not overload the system. Such tactics have financial repercussions on local utility bills to spawning fish runs associated with hydro-electric dams.
Against this backdrop, the Oregon Territorial Sea Plan is in the throes of final review and possible enactment in Salem, and nobody seems to be able to predict what the overall outcome will look like, or how it will operate. During Wednesday’s meeting, Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson encouraged the public to take serious note and get involved because there could be substantial effects on the economy and quality of life of Central Coast residents and of the tourists who visit the area.