The modern world is hungry for energy. While demands continue to rise, a move toward less reliance on fossil fuels in the direction of sustainable and renewable energy resources will have a lasting effect on world populations. Diversity in energy resource development, particularly in the renewable sector, has the potential to spread financial and environmental risks and impacts across a broad range of the largest consumer nations. With that said, it will take a variety of different renewable energy technologies to help accommodate increasing world energy demands. Solar, hydroelectric, and wind driven turbine technologies have a substantial head start on marine hydrokinetic energy conversion devices.
Shift back to the Oregon coast…
Energy resource models have shown the Oregon coast to be one of the potentially richest wave energy resource areas for the continental U.S. Those of us living here or who spend time near or on the ocean can strongly attest to that. It is rarely calm. In light of a nascent wave energy conversion (WEC) device industry, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) was established with support from the U.S. Department of Energy to provide standardized WEC testing facilities offshore of Newport, Oregon. There are something like ~130 different types of WEC devices out there, while tidal turbines have converged to around 20-30 different devices benefitting from wind turbine testing and technologies. Different WEC’s are bound to perform better in different types of conditions and water depths, but without live testing of scaled devices too many questions are left unanswered at a great financial and potentially environmental cost.
This is where we come in. Since 2009 our group has partnered with NNMREC to provide passive acoustic monitoring and support of the testing facilities off Newport. Since WEC construction and operation may potentially generate mechanical noise, we are measuring changes in ambient noise levels before, during and after NNMREC project activities. The concern being that increased noise levels may have adverse effects on acoustically sensitive transient and/or resident marine mammals and fish in the area. Another objective of this work is to provide the developers with an acoustic signature of their device which can then be used for model input to forecast acoustic conditions surrounding the commercial scale build out of an array of their device. We are still in the phase of acoustic site characterization, the “before”, collecting passive acoustic recordings at the testing facilities.
Last week we deployed an acoustic mooring at the South Energy Test Site (SETS) that is scheduled for recovery in October. The hydrophone will collect data on a duty cycle, recording 10 minutes of every hour until recovery. As a NNMREC partner we hope to provide valuable information that can assist in the permitting and licensure process as well as move the wave energy conversion industry forward toward a commercially viable marine renewable energy resource.