Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

Published: Friday, March 21, 2014

The Interior Department today announced it will evaluate whether there's competitive interest in developing federal waters off the Oregon coast where a university is proposing to test wave energy.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is allowing one month to gauge public interest in the waters about 5 miles off Newport, Ore., as well as the proposal's potential environmental impacts.

Today's announcement comes a month after BOEM announced it is advancing a Seattle company's separate plan to install the nation's first commercial floating wind turbine facility off Oregon (Greenwire, Feb. 5).

"Today's announcement marks an important milestone in siting a national grid-connected research facility to support the testing of commercial-scale marine hydrokinetic devices," BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau said in a statement. "We look forward to our continuing partnership with Oregon and key stakeholders to support the advancement of promising offshore renewable energy technologies."

The proposed wave energy facility is being led by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University. It seeks to support up to 10 megawatts of power generation from individual and small-scale arrays in waters about 200 feet deep.

The center is one of three that are supported by the Energy Department to facilitate the development of marine renewable energy technologies.

If there's no competitive interest, BOEM may consider issuing the center a noncompetitive federal lease.

Wave power is similar to technologies that seek to harness periodic tides or continuous ocean currents. They all seek to turn the power of moving water into electricity, with wave power capturing the up-and-down or side-to-side motion.

The so-called hydrokinetic technologies are still in early stages of development in the United States.

According to BOEM, the Electric Power Research Institute estimates that wave energy could theoretically provide one-third of the country's electricity consumption. About one-fifth of that potential is located along the West Coast.

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