The United States saw the launch of one of the first public wave energy testing systems this week off the Oregon coast near Newport, an operation which will allow private industry or academic researchers to test new wind energy technology.
The testing facility, The Ocean Sentinel, cost $1.5 million and was developed by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) at Oregon State University. And there’s no cooling off period either, with the first device to be tested within a few days, a “WetNZ” device developed by private industry.
Experts have long been calling for a facility such as this to help companies and academics develop new wave energy technology, measure and understand the wave resource, and study the energy output.
“The Ocean Sentinel will provide a standardized, accurate system to compare various wave energy technologies, including systems that may be better for one type of wave situation or another,” said Sean Moran, ocean test facilities manager with NNMREC.
“We have to find out more about which technologies work best, in what conditions, and what environmental impacts there may be,” Moran said. “We’re not assuming anything. We’re first trying to answer the question, ‘Is this a good idea or not?’ And if some technology doesn’t work as well, we want to find that out quickly, and cheaply, and the Ocean Sentinel will help us do that.”
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The need for a facility such as this is paramount in an energy industry that, experts believe, will probably not be dominated by one specific type of technology. Given the very nature of waves and the oceans they roll across, one technology simply may not work in every location and circumstance.
The Ocean Sentinel will be able to measure wave amplitude, device energy output, ocean currents, wind speeds, extremes of wave height, and other data.
The challenges at hand, Moran said, are enormous.
“We’re still trying to figure out what will happen when some of these devices have to stand up to 50-foot waves,” Moran said. “The ocean environment is very challenging, especially off Oregon where we have such a powerful wave energy resource.”
Source: Oregon State University