While renewable resources such as wind and solar receive the most attention, “ocean energy systems” are also being developed as an alternative and complementary source of energy to help mitigate the effects of climate change.
One such marine system, wave energy, is in an early stage of technological development that requires large-scale testing before becoming commercially viable. Now, a new test facility called PackWave off the coast of Newport, Oregon, is laying the foundation needed to propel the wave energy industry forward.
“We are interested in devices that can convert wave energy into electrical energy, and PackWave provides developers and researchers in these areas with a permitted site at sea to deploy these types of devices,” said PackWave. Chief Scientist and Professor Burke Hales said. Oceanography at Oregon State University.
“From a developer access and cost perspective, we are providing the infrastructure to transport power from sea to shore, condition it and feed it onto the local utility grid.”
The PacWave project consists of two facilities currently under construction, PacWave North and South. Each site is designed to test wave energy technologies in the open ocean, albeit in different ways.
Hales said, “PackWave North is not grid-connected, it is for research and development level activities for applications that are self-contained, small appliances, scaled up versions of devices that are really utility-scale electricity.” Can be productive.” “Packwave South is almost twice as large, and we are now in the process of supplying, delivering and installing the undersea cables that will eventually capture or allow the capture [wave] Energy has to be transferred back to the shore.
Largely funded by the Department of Energy, PackWave is a collaborative research and development initiative overseen by Oregon State University, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and several other industry and government partners. Together, they hope this test facility can support the emerging wave energy industry.
However, PacWave is not yet operational, as cable installation and construction for PacWave South’s power conditioning facility is not estimated to be completed until September 2024. But as long as the construction process continues to meet its deadlines, testing of innovative wave energy technologies could begin by the end of next year.
,[PacWave] There are going to be four open water test events where the global wave energy industry can come and test their wave energy systems, getting them ready for deployment at grid-scale or what we call ‘blue economy scale’ We can,” said Michael Lawson, group manager of hydropower research and development at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. ,[PacWave] This is exciting for US industry, because this is the first time that we have a permanent test site [in the continental U.S.] Where developers can immediately put their devices in the water, connect them to the grid and get access to the data coming from the devices.
While similar wave energy test facilities already exist in places such as Northern Europe and Hawaii, PackWave represents a “first of its kind” opportunity to bring wave energy technologies to market in the Western Hemisphere.
“Nowhere in North or South America does a facility like this exist,” Hales said. “It is the first of its kind in terms of its capacity, its power generation capability, and the ripple and regulatory environment it is located in. We hope this will help developers build what we call ‘Death Valley’ doing great design and testing it on large scale tank levels but not able to test full scale [needed] To make it commercially viable.”
Getting energy from waves is not easy. To capture and deploy this energy into the grid, one must first understand the interconnected relationship of waves with both wind and solar power generation.
“Waves have energy because they get energy ultimately from wind energy [that] It’s powered by solar energy and Earth’s rotation, Hales said. “Waves oscillate, they go back and forth. So unlike winds which are currents in fairly linear motion, we need to figure out ways to convert that oscillatory energy into another form of energy that we can transmit. The gist of this transformation is, ‘How do you go from something that moves back and forth to something that spins?’ Because [rotation] Ultimately it is the basis of almost every power generation technology we have.”
The difficulty of converting oscillatory motion to linear motion also shows why other ocean energy technologies, such as tidal energy, are more advanced than wave technologies.
“All of the test methods that we’ve developed over the decades for wind turbines, we can apply directly to tidal energy systems to understand what physical conditions these systems need to survive in the open ocean,” Lawson said. qualities are needed.” “So you can imagine that tidal currents moving in and out of the bay turn something like a wind turbine underwater, which extracts tidal energy in the same way that wind turbines extract energy on the plains.”
Although harnessing energy from waves as a renewable resource for power grids is a somewhat new concept, this is where the Department of Energy, research and development opportunities can enable the nascent energy to flourish.
“The wave energy industry is really starting from scratch, there’s nothing out there that really looks like a wave energy converter,” Lawson said. “There’s no commercial project, yet 1,000 different device concepts. At this early stage of R&D, the Department of Energy plays a key role in getting technologies from the drawing board to where some level of commercial viability has been demonstrated.
Once wave energy technology can demonstrate its feasibility both in laboratories and in the open ocean, its benefits are anticipated to be substantial, especially for coastal communities.
“Wave may be able to bring in 10 or 20% of US electricity demand,” Helms said. “It seems like a small number. But if you can get 30 or 40% from solar and 30 or 40% from wind. Then ripple energy starts to make up 20% of the portfolio as a whole and having this stable, relatively predictable, low-volatility asset is really complementary. [renewable energy] portfolio.”
Lawson also emphasizes the benefits of high-predictability and low-volatility nature wave energy provides to the renewable energy industry.
“Wave is very predictable, where these other wind and solar technologies are not always predictable,” Lawson said. “Through satellites and buoys in the Pacific, they can see these waves spreading toward the west coast days in advance. If your electricity producers know for certain what waves will be there 36 hours, 24 hours, 12 hours from now, that’s something you don’t have with wind or solar power. The reliability, predictability of these resources can add to the resilience of the grid.”
Although wave technology is still in its early stages of development, researchers can speculate on how it might be deployed in association with other renewable energies such as floating offshore wind to maximize its potential.
“Maybe we can have combined wind-wave farms where you’re getting more energy from a single ocean location,” Lawson said. “You can see wave and wind being deployed together because you already have this power cabling infrastructure that you can use and save a lot of project cost. But perhaps most importantly, wave and wind resources are complementary in that they can peak at different times of the day and at different times of the year.
Alternatively, in coastal environments where stakeholders are concerned about the visual impairment floating offshore wind farms may bring to the horizon, wave energy devices may also find unique practicality.
“There may be concerns from stakeholders about Viewscape,” Lawson said. “A nice feature of wave energy converters is that they do not have surface expression, or have limited surface expression, because tidal turbines are under water. So these technologies have certain characteristics that make them attractive in some cases.
However, challenges remain in technology development and deployment, as the ocean can be a particularly harsh environment.
“We can have strong winds, the sea can be very rough and these are the conditions these equipment have to survive and resilience to withstand some extreme conditions is extremely important,” Hales said. “We have had waves that can go seven to nine feet off shore because of the winds that blow in our local summer. This is a very different type of energy than very long periods of slow swelling, which can be higher in amplitude, but occur much less frequently. So is there any device that can equally and efficiently harvest energy from those two different types of wave fields? That’s what we need to find out with this type of test.”
While wave energy has its most relevant applications for coastal states and communities, there is potential in some ways that inland and landlocked states such as Nevada could indirectly benefit.
“Our electric power system is highly distributed and the power grid is spread over very wide distances,” Helms said. “The entire grid benefits from connecting distributed power generation assets across the grid.”
Thanks to future operational and test capability from a site like PacWave, wave energy may soon become an integral part of the renewable energy portfolio needed in response to climate change.
“Waves don’t roll over at night, they keep generating energy,” Hales said. “So it’s a highly complementary energy source to the renewable portfolio.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to add context and accuracy to the details of the process.