A collaborative research-based institute at Cal Poly has received a $1.5 million grant to further its work on developing a wave energy testing facility.
The Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy was given the funding by the U.S. Department of Energy to pursue the building of a test site off the coast near Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The grant is the second round of funding for the potential project, which would provide a platform for testing a variety of wave energy devices to determine how well they work in ocean conditions.
“This would be a state-of-the-art test facility with some of the most advanced technology for this purpose in the world,” said Sam Blakeslee, a former state senator who founded the institute. “Four different companies at a time could come and lease one of the berths to test their equipment and see how successful their technology is.”
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The funding will pay for further study on how much the project would cost, what environmental permitting is necessary and how long it would take to get the facility built and operational.
This would be a state-of-the-art test facility with some of the most advanced technology for this purpose in the world.
Sam Blakeslee, founder of the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at Cal Poly
The DOE awarded the institute an initial $750,000 in 2014 to explore work on two possible test sites 5 miles offshore, in northern Santa Barbara and Humboldt counties.
The research determined that the 42-mile coastline near Vandenberg Air Force Base would be best for a test site facility, with five possible sites along that stretch.
At one of the possible locations, an existing oil platform named Platform Irene, submarine electrical cables already in place could be used to transmit the energy ashore.
A viable California wave energy facility could one day generate 7,500 megawatts of electricity — more than three times the capacity of the shutdown San Onofre nuclear power plant — and serve 4.75 million households. The test facility would generate about 10 to 20 megawatts of power and serve about 12,000 homes, after being sold to nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base.
With funding authorizations from Congress, the DOE intends to allocate $25 million to $50 million toward a national wave energy testing facility once a suitable site is determined.
The institute’s project places California in competition with potential projects in Oregon and Washington, as well as Eastern seaboard states.
Blakeslee estimated the project could be completed in about five years if extensive permitting applications are successful.
Additional support for the project 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.
The institute is housed at Cal Poly but receives no state funding for its work, nor does the university for the institute’s operational expenses.