Photo by Kaique Rocha, Pexels.com
What is PacWave?
The first of its kind, formally known as the Pacific Marine Energy Center South Energy Test Site, is a U.S. Energy Department and Oregon state-funded full-scale test facility for wave energy and conversion technologies.
Currently, PacWave is building its 2 testing sites off the coast of Newport, Oregon, and just north of Waldport, Oregon, by members of Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. The goal of the facilities is to house 20 wave energy converters (WEC) that can remain active in 4 separate test berths at the same time.
PacWave wants to test how well different models of WECs can produce marine hydrokinetic energy, which is kinetic energy produced by ocean waves.
Many companies from the U.S., U.K, Austrailia, Canada, and some Norwegian countries have lent their models to PacWave to see how well they work. The Department of Energy handpicked the team at OSU to be in charge of development back in December of 2016 and operation is expected to begin either sometime this year or early next. The electricity outputted from PacWave’s testing site will be connected to the Western Interconnection Grid in the U.S.
What is a Wave Energy Converter?
A wave energy converter (WEC), is a device that is capable of converting “the kinetic and potential energy associated with a moving ocean wave into useful mechanical or electrical energy.” (theliquidgrid.com). PacWave’s aim is to test several different types of WECs to see their energy-producing capabilities.
There are several types of WECs that PacWave is focusing on testing with, including:
Attenuator: a WEC positioned parallel to the waves and catches energy from the motion of its two arms
Point Absorber: a WEC that absorbs energy from all directions and converts the energy received from the buoy into electricity at the base of the device.
Oscillating Wave Surge Converter: this device takes energy from water particles within wave surges. The pendulum arm on top of the device responds to the movement of the waves.
Oscillating Water Column: Built as an L-shaped device, the OWC works with a bi-directional wind turbine situated on top. As more water enters the hollow underside, the pressure builds up and forces its way through the turbine making it spin.
Submerged Pressure Differential: A WEC with 2 types:
Type 1: the SWD lies on or near the seafloor and responds to pressure fluctuations as waves pass overhead. This causes a pliable material, or something that can easily bend, to drive a power take-off unit.
Type 2: Like a Point Absorber, but underwater, and the submerged floater responds to the waves and converts the energy into electricity.
Rotating Mass: a WEC that is usually seen above the surface of the water held down by a weight that is consistently being rotated whose function is to drive an alternator. If the waves are moving a rotating mass 24 hours a day, then it can never stay still and thus is constantly generating power.
Why is PacWave focusing on ocean waves?
As mentioned above, the goal is to see how well different WEC models can produce marine hydrokinetic energy (MKE).
Currently, there are scores of different projects experimenting with wind and solar energy, but most people don’t consider ocean waves as a form of energy. The Department of Energy is focusing on researching how WECs interact with MKE from the ocean. The technology used to produce electricity from MKE is similar to that of wind turbines, where the frequency and power of the wind causes the turbines to rotate and conduct electricity. In this case, the waves replace the wind as the source of energy.
Another example of a Wave Energy Convertor (WEC)
The one aspect that makes projects like these beneficial is that most of our water resources are conveniently located near populated areas; in PacWave’s case this would be Newport, Oregon.
Why is PacWave based in Newport, 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, along with and stakeholder and political support.” (http://pacwaveenergy.org/faq/)
Oregon’s coastline is known for being a hotspot for surfing enthusiasts, as they are attracted to the 24-foot swells that appear constantly down the coast. This a prime area for testing out WEC technology as the constant wave activity can yield tremendous results for different models.
PacWave is the first project to showcase how WECs can withstand the force of ocean waves and research how well the technology produces electricity. With more funding and exposure, the general population can witness a new “wave” of renewable energy.
What do you think about Wave Energy Convertors and how they can contribute to the electrical grid?
Check out PacWave’s website with the link below:
Check out these links to learn more about wave energy convertors and PacWave’s involvement.