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Waves of Green Energy are Waiting Off the Oregon Coast

Ocean Waves Are full of energy
Ocean Waves Are full of energy
Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Oregon has always been on the leading edge of all things green, clean and renewable. With its huge coastline, there was still one more type of new clean power that it hadn’t experimented with: wave and tidal energy. It is one of the most promising emerging energy technology and with a clear abundance of oceans on the planet, something we won’t risk running out of any time in the future! To get a sense of its potential worldwide, this source of energy alone could generate between 2 and 4 trillion kilowatt hours per year! With its new test center, Oregon could stand to become a world leader in this area.

So, what is wave and tidal energy?
Basically, through the rise and fall of water of special offshore buoys, floats and other devices driving hydraulic pumps, we can capture the infinite power of the ocean’s waves and tides and convert it into clean renewable electricity. Best results are found between 30º and 60º latitude in both hemispheres.

Why the Oregon coast?
Location, location, location! Oregon and Washington receive the strongest wave energy in the lower 48 states. According to a 2011 study by Electric Policy Research Institute “Oregon’s total annual available wave energy in the inner shelf alone (50-meter depth zone) is equal to 143 terawatt-hours per year (TWh/yr), or 143 billion kilowatt-hours per year (KWh/yr). That's equal to six Grande Coulee dams and enough energy to power 28 million homes!”

There is little to no energy production on the Oregon coast. Most of it comes from the Eastern Oregon and Washington, in the form of hydropower, gas, coal, nuclear, and wind! Producing renewable wave energy on the coast would not only reduce dependency on cross-coast range transmission but allow local utilities to protect their clients from outages and overloads. Everyone wants a stable and healthy grid.

The coastal grid is also already so taxed that it won’t be able to handle substantial new loads. This means that no new industry can even consider setting up shop on the coast without having to invest a considerable of money into major infrastructure. So developing wave power on the coast would help with job creation and boost the local economy.

What is unique about wave power? Three words: stable, predictable and clean! Wave and tidal power provides one of the most stable energy production compared to solar and wind power. Waves form 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, rain or shine. Tidal energy is even more predictable as it follows the gravitational pull of the moon and sun. Being able to forecast loads is very critical to utilities and grid operators as they constantly try to maintain adequate supply and avoid overloads.

OSU launched a new initiative with private industry called the Oregon State University Advantage and created a Venture Accelerator which will help with the creation of 20 new businesses over the next five years. All the elements are in place for Oregon to become a leader in this new field and show the way to the rest of the country and the world.