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Portland Company Builds First Of Its Kind Renewable Wave Energy Device

<p>Ocean Energy's OE 35 Buoy was constructed at Portland-based company Vigor. The buoy is set to be released off the Oregon Coast to make it's way to a US Naval Test Site in Hawai'i.&nbsp;</p>

Monica Samayoa

Ocean Energy's OE 35 Buoy was constructed at Portland-based company Vigor. The buoy is set to be released off the Oregon Coast to make it's way to a US Naval Test Site in Hawai'i. 

A Portland-based industrial company completed the construction of a first of its kind renewable wave energy device.

Vigor announced Thursday it had completed building Ireland-based company Ocean Energy’s wave energy convertor, called OE 35 buoy.

The 826-ton buoy measures 125 feet by 59 feet with a draft of 31 feet and has a potential rate capacity of up to 1.25 megawatts in electrical power production.

The buoy is shaped like an “L” with a long open chamber that sits below the water line and a turbine above the water. As water enters the open chamber it forces air upward, which turns the turbine to generate electricity. When the water recedes, it creates a vacuum and air rushes in to fill it, keeping the turbine spinning and the cycle repeats.

Ocean Energy estimates that a 100 megawatt wave farm could power up to 18,750 American homes.

Vigor has been building wave energy devices and their components for more than a decade.

“Oregon as a state has really bought into renewable energy and bought into marine energy and have done so for the past 15 years,” Ocean Energy’s CEO John McCarthy said.

“So, they’ve really have been ahead of the curve in terms of the conception and terms of product development and helping to shape government policy to make it happen.”

The buoy is set to be released off the coast of Oregon where it will make a 25-day journey to the U.S. Navy Wave Energy Test Site in Kanehoe Bay Hawaii for 12 months.

“These are power stations so they will be in there for you know 30, 40, 50, years, so that’s the kind of time span your looking at in terms of these devices, these are power plants,” McCarthy said.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, along with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, funded the $12 million project.

“We hope Oregon will show the rest of the country that it is a false premise to suggest we have to choose between a robust economy and a healthier climate,” Vigor’s vice president of environmental services Alan Sprott said.

“In Vigor we believe in, and in this project we’ve shown, that clean energy technologies can be an important part of our manufacturing economy that can drive jobs to engineer and build future clean energy infrastructure.”   

The United States has a substantial wave energy resource off its coasts which could deliver up to 15% of the nation’s annual electricity demand. In Oregon alone, the estimated potential value to the local economy is $2.4 billion per annum with an associated 13,630 jobs.  

"As we transition to a clean energy economy we have to recognize the wonderful potential and the great potential of marine energy can help us meet our clean energy needs but also create so many good paying jobs,” Oregon Democratic Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici said.

Ocean Energy's long term plan is to build five more buoys for deployment at the Oregon wave Energy Test Site off the coast of Newport, Oregon.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Monica Samayoa is a reporter with OPB’s Science & Environment unit. Before OPB, Monica was an on-call general assignment reporter at KQED in San Francisco. She also helped produce The California Report and KQED Newsroom. Monica holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts from San Francisco State University.