The WET-NZ (short for Wave Energy Technology New Zealand) is an innovative wave energy converter that maximizes energy capture by its ability to harness energy from the heave, pitch and surge motions of passing waves. Please refer to the technology page for more information about the device.
Having completed three open-ocean deployments off the coast of New Zealand, NWEI deployed a half-scale, 2nd generation iteration of the WET‐NZ at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) ocean test site as part of a comprehensive program to advance the technology in the U.S. The purpose of this project is to evaluate the design, deployment and performance of the WET-NZ, study potential environmental effects, and support the market development of this renewable energy technology in the U.S. This ocean testing is part of NWEI’s comprehensive research and development program to advance the WET-NZ in the U.S., and it is the first wave energy deployment at the NNMREC ocean test site.
The project site is located approximately two (2) miles off the coast of Oregon within the State Territorial Sea, encompassing an area of about one square mile. Collectively, the WET-NZ, Ocean Sentinel instrumentation buoy, and their mooring systems have a footprint of 820.21 ft x 1148.30 ft (approximately 21.62 acres) within the project site.
The half-scale, 2nd generation WET-NZ is approximately 59 feet (18 meters) long and 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) wide. Nominal wet mass (flooded) is approximately 110,231 pounds (50 tonnes) and displacement volume is around 95% (i.e. the structure is almost fully immersed—the water line is nominally at the axle center). Because the majority of the WET-NZ is submerged (but floating), its maximum height above the water line is about 15 ft. At this height, the device is not visible from nearby beaches and is nearly imperceptible to the unaided eye from the Yaquina Head Historic Lighthouse.
The WET-NZ utilizes a three point mooring system that consists of a combination of drag anchors positioned at points 120 degrees apart around a center position. It is standard, removable mooring systems, so any impacts associated with the deployment and removal of anchors are minimal and temporary.
The device was installed in mid-August, and the deployment continued through early October.
Fishing & Navigation
During the deployment, navigational access within the project site is limited to minimize potential vessel collisions with the devices or entanglement in the mooring lines. As a result, boats heading to or from the Port of Newport may experience increased travel distances if they have to navigate around this area. However, because the restricted area is relatively small, occupying just 0.3 square mile, and the access restriction is temporary, impacts on marine navigation are negligible.
The project site is a restricted navigation area, which may reduce commercial fishing opportunities, but due to the small spatial and temporal scale of the project any effects would be minor and temporary. Similarly, the project may disrupt recreational boating and fishing, but no reduction in recreational boating or fishing use is expected.
In coordination with natural resource agencies, NWEI developed monitoring and response protocols to address entanglement of fishing gear project structures. These protocols include procedures for Detection, Notification, Removal, Return, and Recycling of derelict gear. If derelict gear is detected, the appropriate authorities will be contacted within two days and every effort will be made to return gear to owner. If attempts to return gear are unsuccessful, it may be recycled at the “Fishing for Energy” project located at Newport’s International Port. Further, if the derelict gear poses a risk of entanglement to marine organisms, it will be removed it as soon as possible, the appropriate agencies will be notified within 48 hours, a report with all available information on the case will be prepared, and project operations and/or monitoring plans will be modified if necessary.
The 1/2 scale WET-NZ device deployed at the NNMREC ocean test site has a rated power output of 20 kW. Power generated by the WET‐NZ is transported through the power and communications cable to the Ocean Sentinel, where it is dissipated in resistors.
Continuous on‐shore monitoring of the WET-NZ commenced immediately after deployment, and the data stream is available for local and remote monitoring, data analysis, and reporting. Monitoring data for the WET‐NZ is transferred through the power and communications cable to the Ocean Sentinel instrumentation buoy, which has an Internet‐based interface in its on-board computer. Data from both devices is transmitted wirelessly to a shore station.
Site visits are performed bi-weekly, at a minimum, during deployment. Regular maintenance operations include safety checks, retrieving data storage devices, replacing batteries, and conducting any corrective maintenance needed, as well as visual inspections of the devices and mooring systems above and below water line. Aids to navigation at the project site are also visually inspected during these visits.
If weather precludes site visitation, additional video surveillance, data compression, and backup batteries will be utilized to conduct maintenance inspections. In addition, members of the Fisherman Involved in Natural Energy group (FINE) have agreed to perform opportunistic surveillance of the project site when they are offshore.
The project components are designed to withstand all ocean conditions that might occur at the project site; however, there is a possibility that an unforeseen event could compromise the mooring system or otherwise create a hazardous situation, so the WET-NZ is outfitted with automatic identification system (AIS) transmitter that will provide navigation assistance for locating the device in the unlikely event it breaks free from the mooring system. In addition, the device monitoring systems have specific parameters that, if exceeded, will trigger an alarm to alert the NNMREC Operations Center. NNMREC and NWEI have also developed a Spill Contingency and Emergency Response Plan that addresses the major types of emergency conditions that could occur, identifies lines of communication with regulatory agency personnel, and establishes response actions for emergency situations. The plan also includes measures to prevent and, if needed, mitigate spills or leaks of fluids into the marine environment.
Upon completion of testing, the WET-NZ will be powered down and the power and communications cable will be disconnected. With the cable disconnected, NWEI will remove the WET‐NZ and its mooring system from the test site.
The project was reviewed and authorized by several government agencies during the permitting process, including the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Coast Guard, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Oregon agencies that reviewed the project include the Department of State Lands, Department of Land Conservation and Development, and Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Lincoln County Department of Planning and Development also reviewed the project to ensure compliance with local land use plans.
Yes. A Biological Assessment was prepared in support of the Endangered Species Act consultation for the project, which included information about existing environmental conditions and potential effects on threatened and endangered species and their critical habitat. In addition, the National Marine Fisheries Service prepared a Biological Opinion (BiOp) to analyze potential effects of the project on species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The BiOp also evaluated potential effects on Essential Fish Habitat and marine mammals, in compliance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Further, the US Department of Energy (DOE) prepared an Environmental Assessment for its funding of the project, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. After reviewing public and resource agency comments, the DOE issued a Final Environmental Assessment with a Finding of No Significant Impact for the project.
Given the relatively small spatial and temporal scale of the project, its environmental effects are minimal. Effects analyses, including the Biological Assessment, Biological Opinion, and Environmental Assessment, concluded that the project will not have any significant adverse effects. In addition, NWEI worked closely with natural resource agencies to develop extensive monitoring and adaptive management plans to detect and mitigate any potential effects.
In 2011, researchers at Oregon State University conducted baseline studies at the NNMREC ocean test site to understand and measure the existing environmental conditions. Once the WET-NZ was installed, the researchers began post-deployment monitoring to detect and measure any potential impacts of the project. The post-deployment monitoring studies focus on benthic habitat, acoustics, electromagnetic fields (EMF), entangled or injured species, and derelict gear. Monitoring results are reviewed by scientists at NNMREC to ensure effect thresholds are not exceeded.
During the permitting process, NWEI worked closely with the agencies to develop an Adaptive Mitigation Plan that outlines the thresholds and real-time mitigation actions that may be taken. If monitoring indicates that thresholds are exceeded, NWEI will consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to determine an appropriate response. Responses may include changes to monitoring methods, project operations and/or mitigation actions, as appropriate. All mitigation action decisions will be made by in consultation with the NMFS, USFWS, and ODFW.