PacWave is an open ocean wave energy testing facility at Oregon State University. It consists of two sites, PacWave North and PacWave South (formerly known as PMEC-SETS).
PacWave South is permitted and is under construction. Once operational, PacWave South will offer pre-permitted, grid connected wave energy testing in a high-energy, open ocean environment. All necessary infrastructure including electric / data cables (5MW-rated), and an on-shore grid connection station will be provided. The facility will be able to test up to 20 WECs in four berths, with a maximum power output of 20MW. The PacWave South facility has been developed in partnership with Oregon State University, U.S. Department of Energy, the State of Oregon, and local stakeholders.
Information on the nearby PacWave North Test Site can be found on the metadata form here.
PacWave South is located 7 miles off the Pacific Coast near Newport, Oregon.
The PacWave South Project licensing process is complete and construction started on June 1, 2021. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was the lead federal agency for the process and the PacWave South 25-year FERC license was issued in March, 2021. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Parks Service and US Coast Guard were cooperating agencies.
Complete licensing information can be found on the FERC eLibrary website using docket number P-14616.
June 2013 – OSU submitted unsolicited request for research lease for PMEC-SETS project
March 2014 – PMEC-SETS project officially commences with DOE funding (DOE award #DE-EE-0006518)
June 2014 – FERC published a Notice of Intent to File License Application and approved OSU’s request to follow the Alternative Licensing Process
September 2018 – PMEC-SETS rebrands as PacWave South
May 2019 – Final License Application for PacWave South submitted
April 2020 – Environmental Assessment for PacWave South issued by FERC
February 2021 – BOEM Lease executed
March 2021 – FERC license issued
June 2021 – Construction start
May 2022 – Underground construction complete
Summer 2024 – subsea cable installation (planned)
Expected to be operational for non-grid connected testing in 2024
Expected to be operational for grid connected testing in 2025
Key Environmental Issues
One of the key environmental concerns in the development process for PacWave South was the possibility of whale entanglement or entrapment with mooring lines. The disruption of animal behaviour and benthic habitat due to installation of cables undersea and onto shore also has received special consideration. The acoustic impacts of the project at multiple scales (installation, operation, vessel traffic) were also reviewed as a key issue. Many other potential impacts on species of concern were studied as part of the environmental assessment.
Papers, Reports, Research Studies
- PacWave South License Order
- Environmental Assessment for Hydropower License: PacWave South Project
- Final License Application for the PacWave South Project, includes the following:
- PMEC-SETS marine Geophysical and Geotechnical Surveys
- PacWave South Site Characterization Report – Marine Mammals
- PacWave South Site Characterization Report - Benthic
- PacWave South Site Characterization Report – Crabs
- PacWave South Site Characterization Report – Seabirds
- PMEC-SETS Final Report: Final Site Selection, Preliminary Facility Design, and Cost & Schedule Estimates
- Spatiotemporal drivers of seabird distribution at the Pacific Marine Energy Center off Newport, OR (Master's Thesis)
- Environmental Studies at PMEC: Addressing Information Needs for Permitting/Testing & Future Environmental Research Campaign
- Pacific Marine Energy Center benthic physical conditions, macrofauna, and groundfish abundance
- Pacific Continental Shelf Environmental Assessment (PaCSEA): Aerial Seabird and Marine Mammal Surveys off Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, 2011-2012
- Survey and Analysis of the Surficial Geology and Geophysics in the Pacific Marine Energy Center - South Energy Test Site area and Associated Cable Routes in the Vicinity of Seal Rock, Oregon
Baseline Assessment: PacWave South Test Site
|Receptor||Study Description||Design and Methods||Results||Status|
|Marine Mammals||Whale distribution surveys (Environmental Assessment)||Vessel based transect surveys from October 2013 to September 2015 (Henkel et al. 2019)||A total of 20 humpback whales and four killer whales were observed in the project area. No blue whales, sei whales, or sperm whales were observed. |
Whales are not expected to be exposed to injurious levels of underwater noise resulting from Project components or activities (NMFS 2016g). In addition, the sound levels from vessels during installation and operation, from cable laying, DP thrusters, and from non-impulsive sounds produced by the various WECs over the 25-year operation of the test center is not expected to result in harassment of marine mammals. Whales could be displaced from foraging in portions of the action area or from using it to move between foraging sites. However, any disruption or delay in foraging would be temporary and persist only as long as it took for the whale to swim away from the noisy area (under an hour).
|Marine Mammals||Marine mammal distribution surveys||Aerial surveys 2011-2012 (Adams et al. 2014)||Gray whales (17 sightings of 26 total individuals), and rarely, minke whales (1 sighting), at similar depths (0-100 meter depth stratum) as the project area. Pinnipeds were frequently observed at the 0-100 meter depth stratum; California sea lions were most abundant (76 sightings of 157 individuals), then harbor seals (37 sightings of 53 individuals), northern elephant seals (15 sightings of 16 individuals), Steller sea lion (3 individuals), and northern fur seal (3 sightings of 4 individuals).||Completed|
|Fish||Fish distribution literature review (Draft Biological Assessment)||Review of species status with input from NMFS and FWS||ESA-listed Pacific salmon and steelhead species may occur off the coast of Oregon including Chinook salmon, coho salmon, sockeye salmon, chum salmon, and steelhead. Population level effects by ESU are described in the Draft Biological Assessment |
Project area contains critical habitat for Southern DPS North American green sturgeon.
|Birds, Seabirds||Seabird distribution surveys||Vessel-based observations from May 2013 to October 2015 (Suryan & Porquez 2018, Porquez 2016)||During surveys in the Project area, a total of 35 marbled murrelets were observed, primarily concentrated shoreward of the WEC deployment area and adjacent nearshore waters near the mouth of the Yaquina Bay, with the exception of a couple of murrelet observations just north and west of the deployment area. These surveys indicate that occurrences would likely be limited to occasional occurrences of 1-2 murrelets in the WEC deployment area, but that they would be expected to occur along the subsea cable route and vessel route between Yaquina Bay and the WEC deployment area.||Completed|
|Birds, Seabirds||Seabird distribution surveys||Aerial surveys of seabird distributions from 2011-2012 (Adams et al. 2014)||The inner shelf waters (less than 100- meter depth) around Newport had an influx of seabirds such as shearwaters, northern fulmars, Cassin’s auklets, rhinoceros auklets, and brown pelicans in the fall. Thus, seabirds would likely occur and forage in the WEC test site throughout the year; abundance would likely be highest in the fall, and species composition would change throughout the year.||Completed|
|Invertebrates||Crab distribution surveys||Crab pot sampling (Henkel 2018b)||Describes distribution of crab populations||Completed|
|Reptiles||Literature review on sea turtles||Literature review (Draft Biological Assessment)||Project area contains critical habitat for leatherback sea turtle.||Completed|
|Physical Environment||Benthic macrofauna distribution surveys||Benthic habitat surveys from August 2013 – June 2015 (Henkel 2018a)||Thirty-nine macrofaunal taxa were collected during box core sampling in 2013 adjacent to PacWave South (approximately 60 m depth) as well in the larger benthic study area beyond the Project site. Polychaetes were the most abundant taxa at stations closest to the Project site. The macrofaunal species assemblages identified at PacWave South were consistent with those collected at PacWave North over the same time period, and they varied in response to depth and median grain size. ||Completed|
|Sediment Transport||Suspended sediment risk calculations||Suspended sediment risk calculations (Draft Biological Assessment)||Localized, temporary increases in suspended sediment are not expected to adversely affect any individual juvenile or adult salmon, juvenile or adult eulachon, or adult green sturgeon that could be in the action area; as such, increases in suspended sediment would not adversely affect any of these ESA-listed fishes at the population level. ||Completed|
|Physical Environment||Benthic footprint and scour calculations||Benthic footprint and scour calculations (Draft Biological Assessment)||There would be long-term loss of unconsolidated sand habitat within the footprint of the WEC anchors. The maximum footprint of the anchors would be 19,068 ft2 (0.4 acres) for the initial development and 90,800 ft2 (2 acres) for the full build out, which is 0.1 percent of the total project site surface area (1,695 acres). |
It is anticipated that scour depths may be up to 1 m, and scour widths may extend at least as far from the anchors as 20 m (the actual distance that scour and sediment change occurs will be monitored in the Organism Interactions and Benthic Sediments monitoring plans). Including an additional 20 m (65 ft) radius around each 34-ft diameter anchor to consider scour development and sediment re-deposition, the total direct and indirect disturbance surface area is anticipated to be approximately 21,124 ft2 per anchor (which assumes a 164 ft diameter of direct and indirect disturbance). For the initial development scenario with 21 anchors, this could result in approximately 10 acres, or 0.6 percent of the total Project site being potentially affected. For the full build-out scenario with 100 anchors, this could result in approximately 48 acres, or 3 percent of the total Project site being potentially affected.
|Physical Environment, Sediment Transport||Sediment classification||Sediment classification (Goldfinger 2014, TerraSond 2019)||Complete description of geology and bathymetry is available in the Environmental Assessment and included consultant reports.||Completed|
|Physical Environment||Geophysical surveys of the cable path||Electrical Resistivity (ER) in 2D and Seismic Refraction Microtremor (ReMi) in 2D (Siemens & Associates 2018)||Siemens & Associates (SA) completed marine based geophysical services to support geotechnical evaluations associated with the HDD path extending from the shore out into the Pacific Ocean. The exploration provides insight regarding seabed conditions and extends similar exploration previously completed on the beach.||Completed|
|Human Dimensions||Cumulative effects assessment||Review / synthesis (Draft Biological Assessment)||Within the action area, there are some state, tribal, and local government actions that may contribute to negative cumulative effects. Private activities are likely to include continuing fishing vessels, research vessels from NOAA and OSU, and shipping; floating navigational and fishing devices; lost fishing gear; and contaminant leaks, as described in the baseline. For purposes of this analysis, it is reasonable to assume that cumulative effects of these activities will be commensurate to those of similar past activities, as analyzed in the baseline. When considered together with other relevant past, present, and reasonably foreseeable actions, Project impacts are not expected to incrementally contribute to collectively significant cumulative adverse effects on the marine or terrestrial environment, including marine and terrestrial protected species and sensitive habitats. ||Completed|
Post-Installation Monitoring: PacWave South Test Site
|Stressor||Receptor||Study Description||Design and Methods||Results||Status|
|Noise||Marine Mammals||Acoustic Monitoring Plan (Final License Application - Appendix H)||Acoustic monitoring using moored autonomous underwater hydrophones and drifting hydrophones will provide the data necessary for: 1) characterizing the level and signature of sound from various project components; and 2) allowing for comparison to established sound thresholds to minimize the potential for exceedance of TTS and PTS onset at any time and to determine the extent to which sound is in excess of the 120 dBRMS threshold for harassment. ||NA||Planned|
|EMF||Fish||EMF Monitoring Plan (Final License Application - Appendix H)||Once the WEC device(s) are scheduled to be deployed at a berth at PacWave South, OSU will conduct modeling based on existing approaches to estimate the anticipated EMF output associated with the WEC(s). Field measurements will also be taken at deployed WECs (though typically at lower sea states than maximum power generation) with available standardized equipment. ||NA||Planned|
|Habitat Change||Fish||Organism Interactions Monitoring Plan (Final License Application - Appendix H)||Use an ROV equipped with Tritech Gemini multibeam imaging sonar to track changes to pelagic and demersal fish.||NA||Planned|
|Habitat Change||Invertebrates||Organism Interactions Monitoring Plan (Final License Application - Appendix H)||Use an ROV4 to conduct band transect surveys to track changes to seafloor organisms (especially crabs) and biofouling, as well as along cable routes.||NA||Planned|
|Habitat Change||Invertebrates||Benthic Sediments Monitoring Plan (Final License Application - Appendix H)||Collect box core samples and analyze to determine what (if any) changes in sediment characteristics result in changes to the benthic macrofaunal invertebrate communities. Assess whether these changes to sediment characteristics result in changes to benthic macrofauna by tracking species abundances. If changes to sediment characteristics and/or benthic organism community metrics are detected, determine the recovery period of the habitat and/or organisms. ||NA||Planned|
|Changes in Flow||Physical Environment, Sediment Transport||Benthic Sediments Monitoring Plan (Final License Application - Appendix H)||Monitor for changes to the sediment characteristics in the vicinity of bottom-mounted wave energy converter (WEC) components (e.g., anchors)||NA||Planned|