California Polytechnic University (Cal Poly) has secured $1.5m funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to assess feasibility of locating a National Wave Energy Test Facility offshore of California (CalWave Project).

This is the second U.S. Department of Energy grant awarded to the Institute for this purpose, totaling $2.25 million.

The California Energy Commission estimates the statewide wave energy generation potential to be 7,500 megawatts, or about three and a half times the electricity produced by the recently retired San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California.

"We’re excited that the U.S. Department of Energy has decided to provide a second round of funding for this important wave energy research here at Cal Poly’s Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy," said Dr. Sam Blakeslee, who serves as the Institute Director and Principal Investigator for the project.

"This abundant source of clean reliable renewable power has the potential to drive innovation and jobs while helping California meet its ambitious environmental and energy goals," said Lt. Governor and CSU Trustee Gavin Newsom, who also serves as an advisor on the Board at Cal Poly’s Institute for Advanced Technology and Public, and was an instrumental advocate for the original grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Europe has already established wave-energy test facilities off the coast of Scotland and Cornwall in the United Kingdom. The U.S. Department of Energy is exploring the potential benefits of creating similar capabilities in the United States.

"California’s nearly 840 miles of coastline affords us the unique opportunity to become the global leader in demonstrating the significant potential of marine renewables in providing clean, environmentally friendly energy that will reduce our carbon emissions and move our country forward toward a clean energy economy," said Central Coast Congresswoman Lois Capps.

The test facility, the California Wave Energy Test Center ("CalWave"), is envisioned as a utility grid-connected site that could provide berths for multiple wave energy conversion devices located five miles offshore in federal waters. The prior Cal Poly study concluded that the best California site would be offshore from Vandenberg Air Force Base, which intends to purchase and use the renewable power generated by the test center.

"Wave technology is still in its infancy, much like where solar and wind energy were a generation ago," said CalWavesm project manager Bill Toman. "There are scores of different ideas about how to best harness this energy but they are difficult to test under realistic conditions, especially at sea. Once a national test facility is available we expect to see rapid advances in the commercialization of wave energy technologies. It’s exciting that Cal Poly is in the middle of it all."

The next round of studies are meant to inform the U.S. Department of Energy about how much it would cost, how long it would take, and what are the environmental permitting issues and stakeholder issues for building and operating a wave energy test center.

In addition to engineering issues the research will also examine permitting efforts necessary to apply for deployment of a test facility in California. The California Natural Resources Agency is partnering with Cal Poly to assist in determining how to best coordinate the roles of various permitting authorities and to ensure that fragile marine life issues are properly addressed during the permitting process.

"Coordination with state and federal agencies will help us to better identify an effective regulatory pathway to appropriately assess related environmental, economic, recreational, and marine spatial planning issues," Blakeslee said.

The Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy has added new partners to the project who will provide $375,000 of in-kind cost sharing (matching funds) as part of the second grant. This support includes $200,000 from PG&E; $125,000 from the California Natural Resources Agency; and $50,000 from Perth, Australia-based Protean Wave Energy Ltd.