Technical Research

Technical Research

Wave energy technology is still in its infancy and, much like wind technology 20 years ago, many wave energy conversion (WEC) devices, like the one pictured here, have been developed but no single technology has been proven superior.  Only a handful of full-scale devices have been tested in the world and no commercial installations yet exist.  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 the ability of devices to withstand a harsh ocean environment, and device efficiency, both of which are considered key to wave energy’s 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. All of these considerations are under investigation through NNMREC research and through testing these devices in lab and field (ocean) facilities.

Worldwide, over a hundred conceptual designs of wave energy conversion (WEC) devices have been developed, but only a few have been built as full-scale prototypes or tested. Most have been in Europe. Currently, there are four main types of WEC devices that generate or convert energy from waves. The US Department of Energy has developed an extensive database of examples and categorized different types by technology and other attributes.

Standards guide the development of marine energy technology. They are of critical importance and are currently being established through the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which has established a new committee, TC 114, Marine Energy. Standards will be applied at the PMEC facilities and are being developed for the following:

  • System definitions
  • Performance measurement of wave, tidal, and water current energy converters
  • Resource assessment requirements, design, and survivability
  • Safety requirements
  • Power quality
  • Manufacturing and factory testing
  • Evaluation and mitigation of environmental impact