The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) at Oregon State University (OSU) is collaborating with local stakeholders and government officials on the development of a grid connected wave energy test facility, the Pacific Marine Energy Center South Energy Test Site (PMEC-SETS). The general site selection process was completed in January 2013, and the regulatory process is now underway.

The PMEC-SETS will be located about six nautical miles off the coast of Newport, Oregon, and consist of four test berths, where wave energy devices will be anchored and moored. Each test berth will have a buried subsea cable to transmit power, as well as performance and environmental data, to shore.

What is the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC)?

NNMREC is one of three U.S. Department of Energy-funded centers charged with facilitating the development of marine renewable energy technology via research, education, and outreach. Established in 2008, NNMREC is a partnership between Oregon State University (OSU) and the University of Washington (UW). While OSU mainly focuses on wave energy, UW’s emphasis is tidal energy. In 2011 NNMREC’s research agenda expanded to include offshore wind energy as well.

NNMREC itself serves as a neutral voice of science and engineering to inform the public and decision-makers about the effects and capabilities of wave, tidal, and offshore wind energy technologies.

What is the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC)?

PMEC refers to NNMREC’s marine energy converter testing facilities in both Oregon and Washington. PMEC encompasses the range of test facilities available to the marine energy industry.

What facilities are included under PMEC?

PMEC includes scaled laboratory testing facilities for wave and current converters and intermediate and full-scale open water wave converter testing facilities in both Washington and Oregon. Over time, our vision is to add other wave and current test facilities to the PMEC portfolio to create a global hub for marine renewable energy research and testing.

What are PMEC’s Open Ocean Testing Facilities in Oregon?

For a full-scale wave energy resource, the North Energy Test Site (NETS) can accommodate devices up to 100kW connected to mobile ocean test buoy (the Ocean Sentinel), and larger devices if no grid emulation or connection is required. The South Energy Test Site (SETS) is a grid-connected site currently under development. SETS will serve as the utility-scale wave energy test facility for the US, and is expected to be available for device testing in 2017.

Why should we support marine renewable energy technologies in Oregon?

Marine renewable energy is located near our nation’s coastlines and close to population centers, thereby reducing transmission costs. In addition, marine renewables provide a local emissions-free source of energy that will help wean our nation from dependence on fossil fuels. A robust marine renewable energy industry will help create jobs, revitalize shipyards and add to the economies of coastal communities.

What is the South Energy Test Site (SETS)?

SETS will be the utility-scale, grid-connected, open ocean test facility for prototype and commercial scale wave energy converters (WECs) in the US, expected to be available in 2017. SETS will offer four test berths connected by subsea cables to a substation onshore, each with the capacity to test full-scale devices or small arrays. The site will also gather weather and wave data from each test berth. SETS will serve as an integrated test center to evaluate commercial scale wave energy device performance and environmental interactions, as well as a training ground for jobs in the ocean energy industry.

What is a “test berth”?

A test berth is a location in the offshore site where a WEC (or small array of WECs) will be moored for testing. At the berth, the WEC will be connected to buried subsea cable through which power will be transmitted to an onshore facility, and then to the electrical grid.

Where will SETS be located?

SETS will be located offshore, just to the south of Newport, Oregon. Based on numerous factors, ocean stakeholders identified an area they felt would be suitable for this project and its exact location will be finalized during the current permitting process.

Why was Newport chosen?

The selection was ultimately based on ocean site characteristics, marine and on-shore cable routes, port and industry capabilities, impacts to existing ocean users, permitting challenges, stakeholder participation in the proposal process, and support from the local fishing communities.

Why a grid-connected site in Oregon?

The absence of standardized testing facilities has been identified as a key barrier to the development of the marine energy industry. Oregon is uniquely poised to fill the testing needs of the industry with its tremendous ocean energy resource, available infrastructure, technical expertise, and political support.

What is the permitting process?

The sea- and land-based infrastructure associated with SETS will require local, state, and federal regulatory approvals. The primary federal authorizations include a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and a research lease from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

What are the potential benefits of SETS?

SETS’s facilities will serve as an integrated test center for wave energy developers to evaluate performance and ecosystem impacts of a utility scale WEC or small array. At SETS, developers will have the opportunity to optimize their devices and arrays, learn about deployment, retrieval, operations and maintenance, while minimizing environmental impact and increasing reliability and survivability. Additionally, SETS will provide a training ground for future jobs in the ocean energy industry. The environmental clearance process and permitting for testing will be streamlined for developers testing WECs at SETS.

What onshore infrastructure is needed?

SETS will require a building near the location where the power cables comes onshore for equipment that will analyze and record data coming from the test berths. The power from the berths will then be transmitted to the electrical grid.

How long will SETS be in place?

Based on experiences of other renewable energy test facilities, such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, we expect that SETS could be active for 20 to 30 years.

What are the potential environmental impacts?

A primary role of SETS is to inform sound decisions about marine renewable energy development by to increasing our understanding of potential effects. NNMREC is performing multiple environmental studies to characterize existing conditions, and study results will be used to develop monitoring and adaptive management plans. Additionally, the regulatory process involves comprehensive analysis and documentation of potential effects to both the human and natural environment.

Please refer to the Stakeholders page for opportunities to provide feedback on the project and environmental considerations. Environmental documentation is posted on the Documents page as it becomes available.

Where does the SETS funding come from?

The first installment of funding for SETS was received in September, 2012, consisting of $4 million from the US Department of Energy, along with a non-federal cost match. NNMREC will be applying for additional federal and non-federal funding to complete the project.