[Homestead] Wave energy research in Oregon

tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Feb 8 08:52:09 EST 2005

/Source:/ 	*Oregon State University* 	
/Date:/ 	2005-02-07
/URL:/ 	http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050205103438.htm


    Oregon May Lead Future Of Wave Energy

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Significant advances in university research and other 
studies in the past two years are pointing toward Oregon as the possible 
epicenter of wave energy development in the United States.

This may lead to a major initiative to expand a technology that is now 
in its engineering infancy, and tap the constant heave of the oceans for 
a new era of clean, affordable and renewable electrical power.

Electrical engineers at Oregon State University have pioneered the 
development of technologies to take advantage of wave power in ways that 
are reliable, maintainable and able to survive a hostile ocean 
environment. The OSU College of Engineering also has a host of other 
facilities that would make it an ideal site for more advanced research.

Last fall, the Electric Power Research Institute finished a study which 
concluded that a site off Reedsport, Ore., would be the optimal location 
in the entire nation to develop a wave energy test and demonstration 

And on Wednesday, EPRI and the Oregon Department of Energy will meet in 
Portland, Ore., to bring together potential partners in this field to 
explore the future of wave energy development in the U.S.

At that meeting, OSU officials will present their vision for a U.S. 
Ocean Energy Research and Demonstration Center based in Oregon, which 
they believe could move this promising technology from a laboratory 
concept to a major contributor to the nation's energy needs. The center 
would evaluate existing wave energy systems and help create, test and 
implement new ones.

"The world's oceans are an extremely promising source of clean energy," 
said Annette von Jouanne, an OSU professor of electrical engineering. 
"The technology is still in experimental stages, but we've made enough 
progress in the past couple years that it's time to start planning a 
working research and demonstration facility. And the new EPRI study 
indicates that a site off the central Oregon coast is probably the best 
place in the country to do that."

The Reedsport site, experts say, has a combination of good wave action, 
an appropriate undersea terrain, and the presence of existing marine 
access and terrestrial electric transmission lines that would facilitate 
the creation of a test center.

OSU, in addition, has the highest-power energy systems laboratory of any 
university in the nation, a proximity to the Reedsport site, one of the 
leading research programs on ocean energy in the country, and the unique 
capabilities of the university's O. H. Hinsdale Wave Research 
Laboratory, including a 340-foot-long wave flume and the world's largest 
tsunami wave basin.

Compared to other forms of renewable energy production such as wind 
turbines, the development of ocean and wave energy has barely begun. But 
there are some operating systems in Europe, and the theoretical 
potential of this clean, inexhaustible form of energy is enormous – 
experts estimate that 0.2 percent of the ocean's untapped energy could 
power the entire world.

"The development of wave energy right now is probably 15-20 years behind 
wind energy, which is just now starting to achieve some optimal 
production technologies," said Alan Wallace, the co-principal 
investigator at OSU on these projects, and a professor of electrical 

"And just like wind energy, these systems will be more expensive at 
first, and then the cost will come down and become very competitive," 
Wallace said. "But this is really groundbreaking research that can be of 
enormous value to society, and it's amazing all of the people who want 
to get involved."

The list of potential collaborators is long, von Jouanne said, but 
already includes the Oregon Department of Energy, EPRI, the Bonneville 
Power Administration, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, National 
Renewable Energy Laboratory, National Science Foundation, the Oregon Sea 
Grant Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Lincoln County Public Utility 
District, and U.S. Navy. Not to mention students from all over the world 
who are contacting the OSU engineers, hoping to join in research on the 
energy technology of the future.

"The Oregon Department of Energy is interested in the potential for wave 
energy in Oregon, which may prove to be a viable resource for clean, 
renewable energy," said Justin Klure, senior policy analyst with the 
Oregon Department of Energy. "At the upcoming meeting, we'll discuss the 
current state of wave energy technology, and coordinate with those 
individuals who may play a role in bringing a demonstration project to 

"There is much to discuss, including the costs of a demonstration 
project, the permitting and siting issues, the need for collaborative 
research, and other challenges."

There are multiple ways to tap the energy of the ocean, including its 
tides, thermal features and salinity. But wave energy appears to be the 
most promising and closest to commercial production. In recent studies, 
OSU has already created three prototypes of devices that could be used 
to harness wave energy – a permanent magnet linear generator, a 
permanent magnet rack and pinion gearbox, and a contactless direct drive 
generator buoy.

Some systems are very complex, and more vulnerable than others to the 
vagaries of severe ocean conditions. One of the most promising "direct 
drive" systems being studied at OSU is essentially a buoy that just 
moves up and down with large ocean swells, anchored about one or two 
miles offshore in more than 100 feet of water.

"What you want are nice, gradual, repetitive ocean swells," Wallace 
said. "Inside the buoy, this causes electrical coils to move through a 
magnetic field, inducing a voltage and creating electricity."

With this type of system, it would be possible to crank the buoy beneath 
the ocean surface to survive severe storm conditions or tsunamis, von 
Jouanne said.

The OSU engineers say that a buoy about 12 feet wide and 12 feet tall, 
rolling up and down in the ocean swells could produce 250 kilowatts per 
unit – a modest-sized network of about 200 such buoys could power the 
business district of downtown Portland. And the winter, the period of 
highest wave energy electrical production, also coincides with peak 
electricity demands in the Pacific Northwest.

"One of the other extremely promising possibilities with wave energy is 
the ability to scale these systems either up or down in size, whatever 
you need to fit the electrical demand," von Jouanne said. "Small systems 
could even be used with individual boats at anchor to generate their own 

"We haven't even begun to figure out all of the potential uses of wave 
energy," she said. "But wherever this takes us, we believe that Oregon 
can and should be the national leader."

More information about the Homestead mailing list