An extremely abundant and promising source of energy exists in the world's oceans. Ocean energy exists in the forms of wave, tidal, marine currents, thermal (temperature gradient), and salinity. Among these forms, opportunities and benefits have been identified in the area of ocean wave energy extraction, i.e., using wave energy converters (WECs) to harness the motion of waves and converting that motion into electrical energy. Ocean wave power exhibits several advantageous characteristics including high power density, low variability, and excellent forecastability. The United States is estimated to have 260 TWh of potential wave energy off its coasts, which is approximately 6% of its annual electrical load (comparable to the current traditional hydro power contribution). Ocean waves have well-defined geographical attributes, where the wave power tends to be stronger on the western coasts of land masses and also stronger moving north and south away from the equator. This is due to the global wind cells, primarily the Westerlies, which tend to cause eastwardly moving waves.
In response to promising wave energy potentials, numerous WEC prototypes are being developed around the world, and thus ocean testing facilities and the associated research are essential to enable wave energy developers to demonstrate performance and survivability and to optimize devices. To meet this need, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) was established, which is a U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) center partnership between Oregon State University (OSU) and the University of Washington (UW). NNMREC's mission includes facilitating the commercialization of marine energy technology, informing regulatory and policy decisions, and closing key gaps in scientific understanding with a focus on student growth and development. Thus, NNMREC's objectives include developing facilities to serve as an integrated test center for wave and tidal energy developers, evaluating potential environmental and ecosystem impacts, optimizing devices and arrays for deployments, and increased system reliability and survivability.
To meet the wave energy need, OSU NNMREC is leveraging the assets of the OSU Wallace Energy Systems and Renewables Facility (WESRF), the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research lab (HWRL), and the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC). This article presents the ongoing OSU NNMREC research and the developing scaled and full-scale open-ocean testing solutions, the 2012 and 2013 Ocean Sentinel deployments, as well as the accompanying research and testing of biofouling prevention technologies.