Oregon leads the way in commercial wave energy

By Connor Devereux | Sports Editor

For many years, scientists have been researching new types of energy and building many new inventions to help create electricity, but no one has ever built a wave energy program in the United States, except for one small town on the Southern Oregon Coast.

According to Oregon Solutions project manager Therese Hampton, Reedsport is in the process of becoming home to the first commercial wave park in the entire United States. By the summer of 2012, the Oregon Power Technologies company will be scheduled to begin building off the coast of Reedsport.

Hampton said Reedsport was selected to become the first wave energy program because of the great port it provided and the wave climate off the Oregon coast, combined with Oregon’s desire to become a major leader in the wave energy industry.

“The Oregon coast has a great wave climate, and so they looked at a lot of different spots along the coast but decided that they really liked the Reedsport port,” Hampton said.

According to Hampton, the Oregon Power Technologies company has to wait to receive a license for construction before they can build.

“They have to take into consideration that our program does not conflict with crabbing or animal patterns such as whale migration patterns,” Hampton said. We are still waiting for the final federal license for actual construction and operation. They can’t install until they get that permit.”

Although the project is waiting for approval, the Oregon Power Technologies company is in the process of building a buoy that will be placed in the water to create the electricity. According to Hampton, along with the buoys, there will be a cable going to an undersea pod along with another cable that goes to shore. Once the ten buoys are eventually placed in the water, it is estimated to power approximately 400 homes.

While some may be in favor of the project, Oregon Dungeness Crab Commissioner Nick Furman has mixed feelings on the project because the buoys will be right in the middle of one of their most valuable crabbing areas.

“Wave industry needs to take into consideration the crabbing industry,” Furman said. “They are the new kid on the block and are trying to place their buoys right in the middle of a great crabbing spot.”

Furman said although wave industry may possibly be good for the economy by creating jobs, the crabbing industry has actually been a proven productive industry and placing the buoys in the middle of one of their most productive crabbing areas would affect their business.

“We are not against wave energy; we are against the potential for crab displacement,” Furman said.

The mayor of Reedsport, Keith Tymchuck, likes the idea of the wave energy project, but is also taking a cautious and responsible approach to the project.

“I think wave energy is well worth the state of Oregon exploring in if they can do it in a responsible way,” Tymchuck said.