Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday approved hiring an engineering firm to study the effects of wave action at Winchester Bay and determine the feasibility of producing electricity along the jetty.
RPS Consulting Engineers from Belfast, Ireland, was selected after submitting a proposal for $13,743. Three other companies, all international firms, also submitted proposals for the work that will let the county and Wavegen, the Scottish company that has proposed the wave energy plant, to see whether the coast’s wave action meets expectations.
“We put out a (Request for Proposals) for people that are experienced in determining what kinds of waves we have off the coast, how much energy is in those waves, what direction they’re coming from,” said Robb Paul, the county’s public works director. “That analysis needs to be completed so that Wavegen can decide if the waves that we have out here are adequate to produce the energy they need to turn it into electricity.”
In addition to a site on the jetty, the county is also looking at a secondary site about 300 yards from the jetty. For an additional $2,000, the county could also have that site analyzed, Paul said.
Half of the contract amount will be paid from a $200,000 grant awarded late last year by the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, a Portland-based nonprofit agency created to make Oregon a national leader in wave energy. The other half will be covered by the county and by Wavegen.
The grant will help the county pay for a series of studies needed before a formal application for the project is submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Commissioner Susan Morgan said the analysis would involve taking data showing what the bottom of the ocean looks like in that area and creating a computer model to study the effects of wave action there.
Wavegen wants to create electricity by harnessing energy from a column of water moving up and down inside a chamber from wave action. That movement would turn a turbine, which would then produce electricity.
The company operates plants using the same technology off the coast of Scotland and in Spain.
“That will help us understand whether the investment is justified and whether the payback will actually be there for the project,” Morgan said.