Oregon's wave-power farm marks first in nation

A wind-power buoy off the Oregon Coast. »Play Video
A wind-power buoy off the Oregon Coast.

REEDSPORT, Ore. – Wave power along Oregon's coast is on its way to being harnessed for "clean" energy, a plan that would make Oregon the first U.S. site with a wave-power farm.

Construction is underway off the Oregon Coast for what would be the nation's first commercial wave-energy farm. Project planners say nine more buoys are planned to deploy at a site in Reedsport by 2012. Total cost for this first wave-energy site is expected to be $60 million.

The wave-energy farm will work like this:

  • Energy is drawn from waves at the ocean's surface through a network of buoys set up along the coast.
  • The buoys convert the wave power to electricity.
  • Submerged cables send the energy to shore.

However, there are drawbacks with this type of energy harvest. The buoys can sink or end up on the beach, creating a tangled mess. Plus, commercial fishers and crabbers get closed out of wave-energy areas as those become no-fish zones.

Because the technology is still being developed, wave power costs five or six times as much as wind power. The Oregon project is being funded in a few ways, by New Jersey-based developer Ocean Power Technologies, by the U.S. Department of Energy, by Oregon tax credits and by money from the Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative.