Regional news media were given an up close and personal tour Thursday of Oregon State University’s new wave energy testing station, bobbing in large sea swells 2 miles northwest of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. The Ocean Sentinel is a floating testing dock full of instruments, computers and other scientific equipment that is hooked up to a prototype wave energy device from New Zealand. It’s owned by a private company that wants impartial third party testing of their device to lend accuracy and credibility to their particular wave energy product which they would, of course, like to sell on the world market.
OSU’s National Marine Renewable Energy Center built the Ocean Sentinel and is expect to eventually have many more wave energy clients line up to have their devices tested as well.
But the Ocean Sentinel is somewhat limited in its range of tests. It doesn’t handle the full output of a large wave energy device, only some of that output. More robust testing must wait for a device to send its full electrical output by cable to a substation onshore. Four communities along the Oregon Coast are vying to build such a facility: Ft. Riley near Warrenton, Newport, Reedsport and Coos Bay. The suitability and cost effectiveness of each site is currently being weighed by OSU scientists. They expect to announce the top two candidates within a couple of weeks. Important criteria include having proper depths for wave energy devices close to shore, ease of routing an underwater power cable, closeness to an onshore substation and general support of the community for wave energy becoming a major user of offshore resources.
Once a site is selected, it’s expected to take several years to get the testing station up and running.