Portland Company Finished First Wave Energy Convertor—and More Cities Should Follow Suit

Portland Company Finished First Wave Energy Converter——and More Cities Should Follow Suit

One Portland company has been developing a device for renewable wave energy for years. Last week, it successfully completed construction on the first-of-its-kind device.

A Portland-based industrial company, Vigor, is harnessing the power of water as renewable energy. While the technology and device is in its earlier stages, scientists say this wave energy converter could be a huge energy source for the future.

The completion of the wave energy converter, called OE 35 buoy, was announced last week. After an application for a wave energy testing was submitted earlier this summer, efforts are finally coming to fruition.

Vigor said it finished building the converter for an Ireland-based company called Ocean Energy. The buoy weighs 826 tons, measures 125 feet by 59 feet, has a 31-foot draft, and has a potential rate capacity of 1.25 megawatts in electrical power production.

That sounds like a lot of mindless numbers, until you learn what this massive device can do. One article outlines the buoy’s distinct build—it’s shaped like an “L” with a long open chamber that sits below the water line and a turbine above the water. As water enters the open chamber, it forces air upward, which turns the turbine to generate electricity. When the water recedes, it creates a vacuum, and air rushes in to fill it. This keeps the turbine spinning and the cycle in motion.

But get this: Ocean Energy estimates that a 100-megawatt wave farm could power up to 18,750 American homes.

Vigor is not new to the world of water energy, though. In fact, the company has been building wave energy devices and their components for more than a decade. And it’s had tremendous support from the state of Oregon to help with its research and environmental efforts.

“Oregon as a state has really bought into renewable energy and bought into marine energy and have done so for the past 15 years,” Ocean Energy’s CEO John McCarthy said. “So, they’ve really have been ahead of the curve in terms of the conception and terms of product development and helping to shape government policy to make it happen.”

However, the U.S. Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, along with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, funded the project for $12 million.

McCarthy described the buoy as a kind of “power plant”—and it’s designed to be in operation for decades. The buoy is set to be released off the coast of Oregon where it will make a 25-day journey to the U.S. Navy Wave Energy Test Site in Kanehoe Bay Hawaii for 12 months.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that clean, renewable energy must be the future of energy technology. The United States has a significant wave energy resource off its coasts—and these coasts could deliver a projected 15 percent of the nation’s annual electricity demand. However, the U.S. as a whole has not kept up with its clean energy potential as other states like Oregon have.

Oregon state’s potential for green energy is notable. In Oregon alone, the estimated potential value to the local economy is $2.4 billion per annum with an associated 13,630 jobs.

State officials have even spoken up about this reality: “As we transition to a clean energy economy, we have to recognize the wonderful potential and the great potential of marine energy can help us meet our clean energy needs but also create so many good paying jobs,” Oregon Democratic Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici said.

Ocean Energy plans to continue to build five more buoys for deployment at the Oregon wave Energy Test Site off the coast of Newport, Oregon.

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