Waiting for wave energy

| Print |  Email
Articles - May 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

By Lee van der Voo

At the center of the debate is an oyster. It has no shell, stands over three stories tall and the muscle of its jaw is a pair of hydraulic pistons. When it anchors to the ocean floor, it arrives on a crane. More than $80 million is behind the scouting effort for its next home.

The Oyster (capital O) is Aquamarine Power’s answer to ocean energy. It generates power by capturing waves and pushing them to drive a hydroelectric turbine onshore. Fashioned in arrays, an Oyster farm can generate 100 megawatts of power a year, more lucrative than pearls. For the past six years, Scotland-based Aquamarine Power has been intensely focused on deploying it in wave-rich parts of the world, Oregon included.

As the search to bed the Oyster off Oregon mounts, this hulk of technology has become a symbol of the state’s planning savvy for some, a case in point for why Oregon has spent nearly three years drawing invisible lines around the ocean, zoning where such projects can locate.

But for local champions of a wave-energy industry still in its global infancy, the Oyster has become emblematic of something else: zig-zagging policy regarding ocean energy and the state’s own tendency to trip over its mixed directives, sometimes with bitter consequences for business.

“A few years ago a bunch of really smart people got together and identified areas of opportunity for the Oregon economy,” says Jason Busch, executive director of the Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET), a state-funded nonprofit that’s been charged with growing the wave industry since 2007.  “A lot of people smarter than me — I’m talking major business leaders around the state and political leaders through the Oregon InC process — thought ocean energy presented the highest beneficial impact to the Oregon economy.”

Since that effort created OWET, Busch says, “We’re out there talking to different companies trying to get them to come to Oregon, and then three years into the process all of a sudden the state says, uh, we’re not going to process any permits for the next 18 months or two years.”

Energy developers were what galvanized the surreal process of zoning the ocean, when a rush on lease applications in 2006 and 2007 prompted the Oregon Division of Land Conservation and Development to begin blocking out portions of the ocean for sensitive habitat, fishing, recreation and coastal views, among other things, in 2008.

But the Oyster has complicated matters by hitting the water faster than the new zoning rules. In December, Aquamarine Power applied for leases along 7,000 acres of the Oregon coast, aiming to deploy four testing devices to gauge conditions for the Oyster’s new home. The Oyster would ultimately occupy much smaller sites, about 70 feet deep by 1,400 feet long.

The state’s message to the water-ready wave company?

Wait.



 

More Articles

Live, Work, Play: Amen Teter

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Catching up with Amen Teter, Portland-based global director of action sports for Octagon Olympics & Action sports talent agency.


Read more...

Old school: Paulsen's Pharmacy maintains old fashion ethos

The Latest
Thursday, December 18, 2014
121914-pharmacy-thumbBY MEGHAN NOLT

VIDEO: Under the radar — complete with a soda counter, the traditional Paulsen's Pharmacy looks to compete with big box retailers.


Read more...

MBA Perspective

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Robin Anderson, dean of the Pamplin School of Business, University of Portland: "You need people who are comfortable leading in ambiguity."


Read more...

5 companies react to lower fuel prices

The Latest
Thursday, January 15, 2015
thumb-shutterstock 233787049BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Consumers love the savings they get from low oil prices, but how has business been affected?


Read more...

Streetfight

News
Sunday, December 07, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

On Friday, Uber switched on an app — and with one push of the button torpedoed Portland’s famed public process.


Read more...

Convention Wisdom

February 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

After more than a decade of wrangling, construction on a convention center hotel in Portland is slated to start this summer. But debate over project financing continues.


Read more...

Carbon Power

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Researchers in a multitude of disciplines are searching for ways to soak up excess carbon dioxide, the compound that contributes to global warming.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS