- Energy security is a vital but often unmet requirement for community resiliency. Electricity availability is essential to the functioning of the economy, individual households, and the collective essential services that provide health, safety, and the basic human needs to sustain life. Coastal communities in Oregon face special vulnerability because they are almost entirely dependent on outside sources of electricity generation routed via a limited number of transmission lines over a coastal mountain range, where they are prone to damage. When these lines fail, as has occurred in past storms, the coast can be electrically stranded from the regional grid network and large swaths of coastal communities are without power. This vulnerability raises a question whether this risk to coastal community energy resilience could be mitigated through utilization of a local and abundant renewable energy source: ocean wave energy.
This transdisciplinary report assesses key technical, natural system, socio-economic, and regulatory considerations surrounding the validity and value of Wave Energy Converters (WECs) as an emergency power generation resource for the example community of Newport, Oregon. The work was performed by a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team of graduate researchers as part of the National Science Foundation National Research Traineeship in Risk and Uncertainty Quantification and Communication in Marine Sciences at Oregon State University.
This report imagines a scenario in which an event such as a winter storm causes a regional transmission line outage in the example community of Newport, Oregon for a hypothetical duration of two weeks. We propose a system of rapidly deployed WECs connected to the local electrical grid to allow conversion of the Central Lincoln PUD service area into an “islanded microgrid” that can provide locally for the community’s critical infrastructure services. In this context, the goal of having an islanded microgrid is to be able to use local sources to supply the community’s electrical needs.
We determine that marine renewable energy (MRE) may be a valid risk mitigation alternative from a technical and regulatory standpoint with the proper consideration of grid integration needs and support for emergency MRE options on a policy level. Based on the findings in this report, it appears that the temporary emergency WEC use case would be economically infeasible given the estimated power demand for critical services and the generation capabilities of currently available WEC devices. However, our research shows that there are significant gaps in knowledge regarding how we value critical services in a long emergency, and advancements in this field may change the value proposition of an emergency WEC use case. Additionally, advancements in wave energy technology or emergency power demand management may reduce the total size requirements for an emergency WEC array, or the logistical ability to deploy the WEC system, changing the feasibility and cost of the system in the future. Moreover, there is additional uncertainty regarding the recurrence interval of an outage of sufficient scale to warrant investment.