As U.S. west coast states go, Oregon isn't exactly know for its gnarly waves. Unless, that is, you're in the wave energy business, in which case action off the Oregon coast is as tantalizing as Malibu Beach swells are for California surfers.
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Recently, Oregon coastal waters have attracted the interest of some of the world's biggest wave power companies, including New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies and Aquamarine Power, based in Scotland.
In 2010, Ocean Power Technologies received nearly $6 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding to scale up its PowerBuoy technology and begin building a utility scale wave energy project off the Oregon coast large enough to provide power for around 400 homes. The Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET), a state-funded non-profit tasked with supporting the development of wave power in Oregon, recently awarded Aquamarine Power a $100,000 matching grant to deploy several Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers--devices used to measure wave energy potential--to assess Oregon coastal waters.
Oregon is not alone among U.S. states in wooing wave power companies and exploring the opportunity to help build a potentially lucrative industry; California, Washington, Maryland, and Massachusetts also have a toe in the water. But so far Oregon has emerged as the U.S. leader.
So what makes Oregon such a hot destination for wave power entrepreneurs?