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OSU wave power testing facility overcomes many “firsts”

Oregon State University

After many years of preliminary work, a wave energy testing facility led by Oregon State University is nearing the final stages. It’s called PacWave South and it’s being installed south of Newport.

Lead engineer Burke Hales told KLCC the U.S. Department of Energy was interested in grid-scale production. “That is challenging," he said, "because you need to be able to have a full-size device. And you have to have full-scale waves, which means you have to work in challenging parts of the ocean. And you have to have the infrastructure to transmit that power from the ocean back to the grid, condition it into a grid-compatible form.”

Nearly every step of the project involves something that has never been done before. Last year, PacWave laid conduit seven miles out to sea, by drilling horizontal bores under the sea floor: a world-class engineering feat.

The project recently secured the last major pieces needed for construction. They authorized the manufacture of more than 80 kilometers of cable with a company in Norway, and finalized a contract for building the shoreside facility. Hales expects the cable will be transported and installed in summer, 2024.

The cables come ashore at Driftwood Beach State Recreation Site. Though none of the components will be visible from the beach—seven miles is too far to see because of the curvature of the earth—there will eventually be signage explaining the project.

The Department of Energy has already awarded four companies the right to test their designs at the facility.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.