The past decade has seen the rapid development of wind and solar generation throughout Europe and in U.S. states like California and Texas, and steady improvements in technology, manufacturing, and economies of scale have significantly reduced the cost of these and other traditional renewables. As international, national, state, and local policies demand ever-lower carbon emissions, many are looking to marine renewables to complement traditional terrestrial wind and solar technologies as a major source of renewable electrical generation.
Nations like China, Australia, Portugal, Scotland, and the UK have already made large investments to build marine renewable test facilities and pilot projects. Developers such as Statoil are pursuing a commercial-scale floating wind project in the 30 megawatt (MW) range in Scotland, and DONG Energy is pursuing a 1.8 gigawatt (GW) stationary offshore wind project in England. As technologies continue to improve, and prices decline, a tipping point will likely be reached which will someday result in the rapid commercialization of this resource. California has seen the full potential of this tipping point moment in the form of a “solar land rush”, when the price of thin-film solar technology fell to the point that it became the preferred solution to meet on-peak-demand needs in a 50% renewable portfolio standard environment.
Although the raw resource of marine wind and wave resources is significant at numerous locations around the world, the first “marine renewable rush” to build large-scale offshore wind and wave farms will occur where a confluence of factors are most conducive to profitable investment. We believe, for a number of reasons, that California has a high probability of being one of those locations.
Although the opportunity is great, significant work must be done to support and guide development and deployment of this emerging technology. An integrated strategic planning effort is needed to fully anticipate and responsibly respond to the wide range of impacts and opportunities.
The U.S. Department of Energy has indicated its intention to accelerate the development of wave-energy technologies in the United States by supporting a world-class National Wave Energy Testing Facility where technology manufacturers can pilot their devices in a true marine setting. Cal Poly’s Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy (IATPP) received a $750,000 grant (CalWave) in 2013 from the Department of Energy (DOE) to assess the feasibility of siting the planned National Wave Energy Test Facility in California. In 2016, after the initial study showed a high degree of feasibility, DOE provided $1.5 million of additional funding to further explore preliminary engineering, environmental permitting, and stakeholder aspects of building and operating a California Wave Energy Test Center. This second phase includes matching funds from new project partners: the California Natural Resources Agency, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, and Protean Wave Energy Ltd., for a total commitment of $375,000 in funding for this phase.
By mid-2016, this work resulted in selection of two potential CalWave sites based on stakeholder feedback, engineering, routing, and environmental considerations. A map of the proposed sites can be accessed here. A conceptual design of the test facility showing how CalWave would connect wave energy converters to the electric system is available here. Several years of discussions with engineers, technical experts, permitting agencies, and regional stakeholders indicates that the proposed project location offshore from Vandenberg Air Force Base is a prime west coast location for a wave energy test center.
To review more details about CalWave, please view the project fact sheet.
To submit comments for the project team to consider as part of the Feasibility Study, please click here.
To support CalWave click here.