U.S. Navy Test Site Receives World's Largest Wave Energy Device

Image courtesy USN

Published Dec 20, 2019 7:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

A U.S. Navy test site off Oahu is now home to the world's largest-capacity wave energy device, the Ocean Enegy 35. 

Unlike many wave power generators, the OE35 design collects energy by pumping air through a turbine mounted above the water, with no moving parts below the surface.  The device is a monolithic barge weighing 825 tonnes and measuring about 125 feet by 60. 

The first at-sea testing for the buoy design began in 2006 with a 1:4 scale device, and developer OceanEnergy partnered with Portland-based shipbuilder Vigor Industrial to manufacture the full-scale unit in 2018-19. It is expected that the OE35 will generate about 1.25-1.75 megawatts of power, about one-tenth the capacity of a GE Haliade-X wind turbine. 

The project is partly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, and it is part of an agreement committing the American and Irish governments to collaborating on marine hydrokinetic technologies. The contract value for the first unit is $6.5 million out of a total project value of $12 million. 

The OE35 under construction at Vigor's Portland shipyard (Vigor Industrial)

The OE35's launch at Vigor's Portland yard (OceanEnergy)

"It is one of the most commercially viable units that's been constructed or designed yet," said Vigor VP of sales Thomas Hickman, speaking to local media in May. "If we can imagine a field of a hundred of these off the coast of Oregon or Washington or California, you have an energy source that will run small cities."

OceanEnergy believes that the OE35 could also be used for a variety of energy applications beyond utility-scale power supply. These include power for marine-based data centers, offshore fish farming, desalination plants, naval underwater autonomous vehicle (AUV) power platforms and off-grid applications for remote island communities.

“The United States Navy is excited to work alongside DOE’s Water Power Program in supporting this first grid-connected test of an oscillating water column buoy at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site here in Oahu," said Kail Macias, the technical director for the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center.