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The Leading Edge

First wave power turbines in U.S. to be installed in Oregon

The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) has announced Newport, Ore., will be the future site of the first wave and tidal energy test site in the U.S.

The test site, called the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC), will utilize wave power devices 5 miles offshore to capture power and send it to the grid via subsea cables. PMEC scientists and engineers will analyze data from the devices to determine power-generating potential.

Four sets of tests will occur off the Oregon coastline using a variety of devices over a span of several years, with the goal of capturing reliable data to demonstrate generation potential and technological proficiency.

The design and permitting stages of PMEC are ongoing. NNMREC secured the first funding installment of US$4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy in September 2012, combined with a cost match from an unnamed contributor. NNMREC, which is a partnership between Oregon State University and the University of Washington, is currently seeking additional investors to finish funding the project, as well as finalizing the exact ocean site.

PMEC is seen as a valuable addition to the community, as it will draw jobseekers and demonstrate potential opportunities for tidal energy investment, NNMREC says. Of the two communities considered for the testing site, Newport best matched the criteria needed for development, including the support of the fishing community, level of impact on ocean users, permitting and regulatory issues, cable routes, and site characteristics.

DOE encourages tidal power research with new facility

A new tidal power research facility that will be run by the U.S. Department of Energy is scheduled to open in 2015. The Reference Facility for Offshore Renewable Energy, located at the Chesapeake Light Tower near Virginia Beach, Va., will be a research hub to test new technologies for offshore wave and tidal power development.

Primarily, the research performed at the facility will test if remote sensing technologies are providing accurate, reliable data on the power-generating potential of ocean waves, as well as seek methods to improve the technology if required. Inaccurate data is believed to be a deterrent to potential wave and tidal energy investors.

Although the research will heavily focus on wind power, ocean energy and environmental impacts will also be prioritized research subjects.

Researchers at the Reference Facility will come from the marine energy industry itself, the academic sector, and government agencies. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the government-sponsored research entity with 35 years of experience improving energy efficiency and developing renewable energy, will manage operation and maintenance of the research center, while DOE will guide the course of research through its Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Senator Whitehouse espouses support for ocean energy

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse joined many voices in the federal government in their support of the ocean energy industry in January at the fourth Annual Marine Renewable Energy Technical Conference in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island junior senator was on hand to provide opening remarks for the event, which is organized by the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center (MREC).

Whitehouse stated that he would fight for industry tax credits and other legislative supports that allow "sensible and knowledgeable decisions to be made about locating marine energy resources."

Whitehouse co-chairs the Senate Oceans Caucus, which directs bipartisan efforts toward establishing a common ground when dealing with coastal energy development. The senator spoke from that perspective, noting the tremendous employment potential in clean renewables like ocean energy. He stated the belief that marine energy will be a major component of the economy in the future.

As the senator from Rhode Island, aptly titled "the Ocean State," Whitehouse espoused faith in the role of the oceans to help drive the energy sector in the state as well as along the rest of the seaboard.

New England MREC is based at the University of Massachusetts-Darmouth and combines the knowledge and expertise of academics, industry leaders, public interest groups, government agencies, municipalities and individual citizens, with the ultimate goal of developing tidal and wave energy to its full potential in southeastern New England.

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