The federal government moved closer to selecting where to build a long-planned wave energy test center — the facility that Oregon wave energy backers see as vital to the future of the industry in the state.
The U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday said it would soon issue a funding opportunity announcement that would offer up to $40 million in federal funding for the test center.
The OSU group has been working on a plan to build the center a half-dozen miles off the Oregon coast at Newport. It would have four testing berths connected to a subsea cable that would carry up to 20 megawatts of power ashore.
Earlier this year, the state legislature appropriated $800,000 to OSU in an effort to boost its chances of landing the facility, which would be the first “fully energetic” — that means big waves — test center in the United States.
The idea behind the state appropriation was to help provide required matching funds for an anticipated $5 million federal award, already appropriated by Congress in the current fiscal-year budget. Future federal funding was expected to be awarded down the road.
However, the DOE said Thursday that it envisioned “awarding one financial assistance award in the form of a cooperative agreement” that would extend over five years. The selected site would have to come up with 20 percent of the award as a cost share.
Asked if that meant the test center would be funded in one fell swoop, via email the DOE said not quite, although much of the money – up to $25 million – would come soon if Congress makes the fiscal-year 2017 appropriation the agency is seeking.
Doing the funding that way could ensure that a future Congress doesn’t pull the plug on the test center, but it could also put pressure on Oregon to come up with more matching funds sooner than expected.
The leader of the OSU effort, Belinda Batten, wasn’t available for comment on the DOE’s announcement, but in an email, Oregon Wave Energy Trust Executive Director Jason Busch said he has already been in contact with state leaders with the message that “the Oregon legislature must prioritize this appropriations need promptly to be able to take advantage of this opportunity.”