Thursday, December 20, 2007

Growing interest in Ocean and Wave Energy

One of the things I noticed in the recently signed energy bill was the boost given ocean and tidal energy, under Sec. 291 – 293, entitled “Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion”. Overall $500 million was appropriated ($50m/yr for 10 years) exclusively in research and development, including the creation of several national ocean research centers. In the summer I got to sit in on some of the House testimony around ocean/wave technology, and was excited to see it make the bill.

Therefore, I expect to see more stories like this over the next few years:

Pacific Gas and Electric Company recently announced that it has entered into a long-term, two megawatt (MW) commercial wave energy power purchasing agreement with Finavera Renewables Inc. Located off the Northern California coast, the Humboldt County Offshore Wave Energy Power Plant will be developed by Finavera Renewables. The project is expected to begin delivering renewable, clean electricity in 2012.
A more in-depth look on the PG&E and Finavera deal, and other wave energy developments can be found here at Green Wombat.

At 2MW, the amount of deliverable energy is tiny, although , although according to the release, the technology is easily scalable, and according to the Green Wombat article, the expectation is for a 100MW “wave park”. More information on the technology can be found on Finavera's website here. I couldn't confirm this this could serve as baseload power, but my assumption is that it must be theoretically possible.

According to its website, Finavera recently closed a $2million private offering, and has a number of other wave projects in development. Meanwhile, PG&E is looking to develop other wave energy projects:
PG&E independently filed permit applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February 2007 to develop generation projects that could convert the abundant wave energy off the coast of Mendocino and Humboldt Counties into electricity. Named "WaveConnect," these projects are currently undergoing initial resource, environmental, and ocean use assessments.
Additional projects are being developed around the world, especially in the "Saudi Arabia of tidal power" (Pentland Firth, a strait between North Scotland and the Orkney Islands). Even locally, Verdant Energy is trying to pull power out of the East River.

For a good overview of the current state of wave energy technology and the industry spring up around it, I recommend either of these two articles.

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