California’s continued push to rapidly adopt offshore wind signals a glowing opportunity for wave energy technology as a complementary power partner to accelerate the mission to net-zero.
A recent report by the World Economic Forum highlighted the fast-evolving narrative on the US West Coast, following a series of major announcements in 2021.
Earlier in May, the Biden administration revealed offshore wind farm leases would start to be auctioned off in 2022, unleashing space for development across than Californian Pacific. Shortly after, in September, Sacramento lawmakers passed a bill requiring the transition to offshore wind by 2023.
It is understood that up to 60pc of the state’s electricity consumption could be powered via offshore wind by 2030, with view of reaching a complete wind-powered grid by 2045.
However, the mission to net-zero could be accelerated if California is able to further diversify its green energy mix, tapping more energy from the ocean, through combined floating wind, solar and wave energy arrays.
With commercial-scale wave energy devices now being tested, the technology is on track for commercialisation in the coming years, offering huge benefits to coastal communities experiencing strong wave activity.
For California, which is already doubling down and laying foundations for mega-scale offshore wind developments, subsea infrastructure will already be installed, easing the future deployment of ‘bolt-on’ wave clusters.
But the crucial point is that wave energy is highly consistent and predictable. This means it can play a central role in broader green energy systems, bringing greater stability to grid through its more constant power profile – supporting the intermittency of wind and solar. Going forward one should expect growing differences in value of different production profiles reflecting the need to ensure supply always meets demand.
In efforts to demonstrate the hybrid marine energy approach, CorPower is supporting the landmark pan-European EU SCORES Project, which will result in a combined wave and floating wind array off the coast of northern Portugal. The project is supported by developers including RWE, EDP, ENEL Green Power and Simply Blue Group.
Ultimately, this hybrid approach aims to create a more resilient and stable power system, higher capacity factors and a lower total cost per MWh.
It is anticipated a large portion of California’s offshore wind supply could come via floating structures, which are typically fixed into floating steel mats. Unlike traditional bottom-mounted offshore wind farms, floating systems can be placed in water hundreds of feet deep – ideally suited to areas with deep coastal waters.
Hybrid marine energy parks also have broader potential to support the burgeoning green hydrogen industry, potentially accommodating electrolyzer equipment serving as refuelling stations for long-distance ships.
Renewed momentum in California’s offshore wind comes as Oregon seeks to harness its considerable wave resource further north, through the Pacwave open ocean test site, which was granted a ‘build and operate licence’ in March.
Set to launch in 2023, the initiative is underpinned by grants from the US Department of Energy and the State of Oregon. Located seven miles offshore at 75m depths, PacWave South will accommodate four berths, with capacity to test as many as 20 utility-scale wave energy converters (WECs).
Once complete, the facility will bolster America’s marine energy testing infrastructure, which also includes the US Navy Wave Energy Test Site in Hawaii.