Wave Power

Wave Power
Gloria JuYoung Oh

Gloria Oh/MEDILL

Wave energy could provide 15 percent of the United States’ electricity by 2030, according to the Department of Energy. But while federal subsidies support research, such as the U.S. Navy wave energy buoys at Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii, wave energy remains low on the radar screen for clean power. That’s about to change. New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies will be testing one of its buoys off the coast of Reedsport, Ore., later this year, with plans to establish the nation’s first wave farm to harness the ocean’s energy. If the first commercial wave energy facility in the country is successful, Oregon will pioneer a path for jobs and prosperity. Yet other stakeholders of Oregon’s coastline, such as commercial fisherman, see wave power as a potential threat.

Lisa Weidenfeld

Gloria Oh/MEDILL

With so many people interested in the future of wave energy in Oregon, traditional utility companies are trying to deliver but fishermen and other groups have deep concerns about changing the coastline into a power plant. More than 360 miles of coastline and strong ocean currents make Oregon the perfect state to charge up U.S. potential for wave power. Construction begins on the country’s first commercial wave energy facility later this season as part of Oregon’s commitment to renewable resources.

Lorena Villa Parkman

Gloria Oh/MEDILL

Oregon State University and the University of Washington are partnering to develop wave energy nationwide through the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center. Their research focuses on the total picture – the technical, environmental and social aspects of wave energy. Utilities and researchers expect to learn a lot about what it takes to harness the waves as the first commercial venture generates wave power off the coast of Reedsport, Ore. Success could spread fast, since wave power is so widely accessible in the U.S.