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Ocean’s Electric

Producing energy off the coasts of the United States could be the wave of the future, according to a report on an offshore feasibility demonstration project.

Co-sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute, the utility industry’s research group, and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab, the study examined designs for 300,000-Megawatt-hour (MWh) plants at harbor sites in San Francisco; Honolulu; Portland, Maine; Boston; and Coos Bay, Oregon.

“Wave energy conversion may be economically feasible within the territorial waters of the United States as soon as investments are made to enable wave technology to reach a cumulative production volume of 10,000–20,000 Megawatts (MW),” the report says, noting that, in comparison, land-based wind turbines generate 40,000 MW.

“A characteristic of wind energy that suggests that it may be one of the lowest cost-renewable energy sources is its high power density,” the report says.

“Processes in the ocean concentrate solar and wind energy into ocean waves, making it easier and cheaper to harvest,” it explains. “Solar and wind energy sources are much more diffuse, by comparison.”

Offshore wave action is a concentrated form of wind energy that produces a bobbing and pitching motion of the ocean.

The kinetic energy created would be captured by conversion devices on floating platforms connected to the electric grid.

“Although this has limited value to co-ops since very few co-ops have service territory that can take advantage of the ocean surf, it’s import to track this research in our efforts to fully utilize all renewable technologies,” says Ed Torrero, director of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Cooperative Research Network.

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