With the activation of The Ocean Sentinel -the world’s first public wave energy testing system- off the Oregon coast near Newport, academic researchers and private industry alike will finally able to test cutting-edge wave energy technology in one of the nation’s most promising sources of wave energy.
The brainchild of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) at Oregon State University, The Ocean Sentinel testing facility cost $1.5 million. Launched last week, it will be testing its first wave energy device within the next few days.
According to Sean Moran, ocean test facilities manager with NNMREC, The Ocean Sentinel was a standardized, accurate system that would compare and contrast various wave energy technologies. The NNMREC testing facility will be able to measure wave amplitude, device energy output, ocean currents, wind speeds, extremes of wave height, and other data. It will also determine which systems are more suited for certain types of wave situation.
“We have to find out more about which technologies work best, in what conditions, and what environmental impacts there may be,” Mr. 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,” he noted, “we want to find that out quickly, and cheaply, and the Ocean Sentinel will help us do that.”
Experts believe that the wave energy industry will not be limited to one type of technology. The unpredictable nature of waves and the oceans dictate a need for multiple devices, with each device being able to efficiently harness the energy inherent in a type of wave. In addition, the durability of the devices need to be tested in actual operational conditions.
“We’re still trying to figure out what will happen when some of these devices have to stand up to 50-foot waves,” Mr. Moran said of the wave energy devices that will be tested aboard The Ocean Sentinel. “The ocean environment is very challenging, especially off Oregon where we have such a powerful wave energy resource.”
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