Oregon is one of many ocean-based economies actively exploring the tremendous potential for tapping the energy of waves to generate electricity for its energy needs.  And Oregon in many ways is a step ahead of others in exploring marine renewable energy, for it is fearlessly taking steps to address the various issues associated with such development, including the environmental, economic, and social effects.  A primary reason for this leaning forward is the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, or OWET.  Founded in 2007, OWET has as its purpose “to serve as a connector for all stakeholders involved in wave energy project development – from research and development to early stage community engagement and final deployment and energy generation – positioning Oregon as the North America leader in this nascent industry and delivering its full economic and environmental potential for the state.”
To illustrate the significant effort OWET is making in support of wave energy development, I’ve provided a quick list of projects sponsored by OWET below.  For a more detailed summary, visit OWET.  One would be hardpressed to find any other state fostering the level of research now going on in Oregon. 

  • Wave Energy Clearinghouse – Community Engagement and Outreach and Outreach between Coastal Communities and Public Agencies
  •  Environmental Research – Baseline Seabird Assessment, Bird Baseline Study, Cumulative Effects Framework, Dungeness Crab and Fish Baseline Study, Ecological Effects Scientific Workshop, Marine Mammal Study
  •  Applied Research and Development – Advanced Anchoring and Mooring Study, Acoustic Characterization Study, Assessment of Underwater Noise Generated by Wave Energy Devices, Sediment Transport Project
  •  Policy and Regulatory Development – Economic Impact Analysis of Wave Energy, Fishing Industry Mapping, Human Dimensions of Wave Energy, International Standards Development for Marine Renewable Energy, Wave Energy Regulatory Analysis and Recommendations
  •  Market Development – Coastal Infrastructure Inventory, Coos Bay Project Development Grant, Douglas County Project Development Grant, Reedsport/Winchester Bay Project Development Grant, Marine Energy Interest Working Group, Utility Market Initiative

In performing an assessment of the infrastructure of Oregon to support marine renewables, our company has contacted wave energy developers worldwide and learned what infrastructure needs they will have in implementing their technology.  A common compliment these companies have paid to Oregon is that in addition to its “great waves”, Oregon also has OWET.  The developers readily see the positive mark OWET is making on the industry in general and on the U.S. market in particular, preparing the way for marine renewables.

Some regions within Oregon recognize the economic potential of marine renewables, and have begun to court wave energy developers.  At the recent Ocean Wave Energy Conference in Seaside, Oregon, representatives of Reedsport and Tillamook were outspoken in their welcome for wave energy in their communities.  Other regions are aware of the development of marine renewables, but have taken few significant steps to encourage development in their region.  A hurdle to full deployment is the potential adverse impacts to local regions, — to fishing, recreational users, marine life, beaches, and other regional impacts.  An even bigger hurdle to the responsible development of wave energy affecting the multifarious stakeholder communities of the Oregon coast is the challenge of open and honest communication.  There have been times when developers and government agencies have not leveled with other stakeholders on the impacts that development of wave energy will have in their region.  As a result, not every community is sold on the idea of marine renewable energy.  Call it NIMBY, NIMO, or BANANA (not in my backyard, not in my ocean, build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything), but there is a fear that with the promise of sustainable energy, along will come numerous woes.

These fears are not without validity, and this is why Oregon is taking the steps it is to understand the effects of this new technology and foster greater transparency and communication.  In addition to these efforts, patience on the part of all players is needed.  It is early in the development of this emerging industry, and time will be needed to develop the technologies that can survive the ocean winter storms, and the corrosiveness and biological damage of life at sea.  It will also take years to find technologies that are cost effective in development, deployment, and operation.  So let’s open our hearts and minds, engage in what’s going on, and enjoy this foray into the future.

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