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U.S. Issues First Wave Energy Lease for Federal Waters Off West Coast

Mike Schuler
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February 22, 2021

The Biden Administration has taken its latest step forward in its goals to address climate change and promote offshore renewable energy with the issuance of a lease for the nation’s first wave energy project in federal waters off the West Coast.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued the research lease to Oregon State University (OSU) for the PacWave South project, a proposed $80 million open ocean wave energy test center to be located about six nautical miles off Newport, Oregon. The area, which will span approximately 1,696 acres or 2.65 square miles, will consist of four test berths to support the testing of up to 20 wave energy converter (WEC) devices, with an installed capacity of up 20 megawatts.

Illustration courtesy BOEM

Marine hydrokinetic technology like WEC devices can be used to harness the kinetic and potential energy from ocean waves, tides and currents, and convert it into electricity for the shore-based electrical grids that supply power to our homes, businesses, and cities.

“The PacWave team initiated this collaborative process with several federal and state agencies nearly a decade ago,” said Burke Hales, the chief scientist for the project and a professor in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “We’re excited for the opportunity to finalize this stage of the project and move a major step closer to construction.”

The PacWave project still requires a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) before moving forward with project construction and operations. However, Oregon State officials have completed the FERC application process and are hopeful the license will be issued soon, with construction possibly beginning as soon as this summer. If all goes according to plan, the facility should be operational by 2023.

“This is the first time a lease has been issued to support the testing of wave energy equipment in federal waters off the U.S. West Coast,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “Ocean waves contain a tremendous amount of energy, and this opportunity offers exciting potential to demonstrate the viability of wave energy technology and expand the nation’s renewable energy portfolio.”

Lefton was named the new Director of the BOEM on February 5 having previously service as the First Assistant Secretary for Energy and the Environment for New York under Governor Andrew Cuomo, where she managed the state’s climate and energy portfolio. BOEM is the agency responsible for managing the development of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf energy and mineral resources, including offshore oil and gas.

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