NEWPORT, Ore. - Three public forums will be held in August on the Oregon coast to discuss four possible locations for a "grid connected" wave energy testing facility, the final phase of the wave energy testing program being developed by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, or NNMREC, at Oregon State University.
Completion of this Pacific Marine Energy Center is still several years in the future. But its construction and completion will provide jobs, aid economic growth, attract researchers and industries from all over the world, and help experts determine which type of wave energy technologies work best, in what conditions and for what purposes.
Officials say the facility will be a complement to the Ocean Sentinel, a mobile wave energy testing system developed by OSU that's already nearing completion and will soon begin operation on the Oregon coast near Newport, with ocean testing of a "WetNZ" device developed by private industry.
The communities being considered for the Pacific Marine Energy Center are Newport, Reedsport, Coos Bay, and Camp Rilea near Warrenton, all of which have characteristics that could make them suitable for the project.
NNMREC is waiting to receive final approval this fall for $4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy for more detailed studies and design work. It also is working closely with the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, a key partner in development of the project. A development plan for this project is already under way, which will determine the best site, estimated costs and other issues.
"We've already been talking with community leaders and other officials for some time about this project, and now we want to broaden the discussion, hear more viewpoints," said Kaety Hildenbrand, a marine fisheries Extension leader with the Oregon Sea Grant program, which is based at OSU.
"The purpose of these forums is to help people understand what we're trying to do, and listen to their interests, questions and concerns," Hildenbrand said. "One part of our goal is simple. We want to find a good fit, a situation where most residents want this facility and feel positive about it."
The "grid connection" means that the electricity produced by wave energy testing could be connected through cables to the shore and used commercially for electrical power.
The forums, which are free and open to the public, will all be from 5:30-7:30 p.m., at three sites:
A fourth forum may be held at Camp Rilea this fall following some further consultation with officials involved.
OSU and NNMREC are national leaders in the development of wave energy, a potentially huge, sustainable energy resource that could produce significant amounts of electrical power with no greenhouse gas emissions. Work is under way in three primary areas - developing and testing new technologies; doing research on possible biological or environmental concerns; and conducting human dimensions research and public outreach, engagement and education.
When complete, the Pacific Marine Energy Center would have four test berths connected to a regional electrical grid, capable of testing individual, full-scale, or small arrays of devices up to one megawatt in size. It would offer standardized power analysis at an accredited facility, power demonstration on the electrical grid, and many other features that could help this evolving industry move forward.
Because of its steady and powerful wave energy resource, it's expected that Oregon will be the location of the nation's first commercial generation of wave-produced electricity, officials say.
Kaety Hildenbrand, 541-574-6537, ext. 27
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