Testing berth to aid wave energy research, development

Ocean Sentinel platformThis summer, a boxy yellow platform called the Ocean Sentinel will anchor in heavy swells off the Oregon coast and help open a new stage in the effort to turn wave energy into usable electricity.

Built at a cost of $1.5 million, the rugged craft will loosen a bottleneck that has dogged the startup wave-energy industry: Getting equipment out of the lab and tested in the brutal conditions of the open ocean.

Europe has a similar device, but the Oregon berth is the first mobile platform to be deployed in U.S. waters and made available for use by small firms that couldn’t afford to do testing in any other way.

“This testing capability is a first for wave energy,” said Annette von Jouanne, a professor of electrical engineering at Oregon State University (OSU) who came up with the idea.

The platform is a project of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Project, a joint effort between OSU, Washington State University and the US Department of Energy. It is one of three such centers established around the US to aid in research and development in the fledgling wave/tidal energy field. It is expected to be fully deployed late this year.

Oregon Sea Grant, which helped fund von Jouanne’s early proof-of-concept research, continues to work with researchers, developers and coastal communities to work through questions and issues surrounding marine renewable energy, from siting to possible conflicts with commercial fishing.

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