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Oregon State University began operations this week of one of the first public wave energy testing systems in the U.S. The Ocean Sentinel, as the system is called, is a $1.5 million mooring platform located two miles off Yaquina Head on the central Oregon coast, and available to academic and industry researchers working in wave or tidal power.
“The Ocean Sentinel will provide a standardized, accurate system to compare various wave energy technologies, including systems that may be better for one type of wave situation or another,” says Sean Moran, ocean test facilities manager at the center. The first industry use of the test platform is expected in a few days.
Wave energy is a technology still in its infancy, says the university. Power is generated from wave energy through the use of large buoys that move up and down in ocean swells to produce large and sustainable supplies of electricity, or similar methods.
The Ocean Sentinel was developed by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center in Newport, Oregon. The device is expected generate measurements and data about wave resources, and study the energy output of wave power systems. The platform, says Moran, “will provide a standardized, accurate system to compare various wave energy technologies, including systems that may be better for one type of wave situation or another.”
Unlike some alternative energy forms such as wind energy, says the university, no one technology will likely dominate the wave energy field. Some systems may work better in low wave settings, while others will likely operate more effectively with more powerful waves. The Ocean Sentinel, says the university, will be able to measure wave amplitude, device energy output, ocean currents, wind speeds, extremes of wave height and other data.
The test mooring platform was made possible with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Oregon Department of Energy, and the Oregon Wave Energy Trust. University of Washington is a partner with Oregon State in the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, that developed the Ocean Sentinel.
Among the questions the Ocean Sentinel will answer is its own staying power in the rugged ocean environment off the Oregon coast. “We’re still trying to figure out what will happen when some of these devices have to stand up to 50-foot waves,” says Moran.