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NNMREC is structured to close key gaps in understanding through the support of baseline studies, on-going monitoring, and setting the technical, ecological, and human dimensions standards for wave energy projects.
Wave energy technology is still in its infancy and, much like wind technology 20 years ago, many wave energy conversion (WEC) devices have been developed but no single technology has been proven superior. Only a handful of full-scale devices have been deployed in the world. There are currently four general technology categories and hundreds of different prototypes. Development and testing of a variety of devices is being carried out in all corners of the world, including Oregon.
Major technical considerations for wave energy development include its ability to withstand a harsh ocean environment and efficiency for extracting energy from the resource, both of which are considered key to its economic success. The key technology challenges are associated with not only electrical generation and output, but mechanical systems, mooring and anchoring, survivability and reliability, predictability (wave forecasting), and integration of the generated power into the existing electrical grid. Other considerations include impacts that the technology may have on the surrounding marine environment including concerns for migratory grey whales and fish species, and changes to sediment transport and near-shore coastal processes. Social and economic concerns have also been raised, with concerns voiced about loss of commercial and recreational fishing grounds and other recreational activities including surfing and kayaking. All of these considerations are or soon will be under investigation through research and through testing these devices in lab and field (ocean) facilities.