U.S. invests $10M in wave and tidal power tests

Source: Joshua Learn, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, October 31, 2014

The Department of Energy and the Navy have announced a $10 million investment into testing wave energy conversion devices off the coast of Hawaii.

The money will go to two companies, Ocean Energy USA LLC and Northwest Energy Innovations, to test their technology at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site near Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The principle of marine and hydrokinetic technology is to harness the power of waves, tides, rivers and ocean currents into a renewable energy source.

Ocean Energy will deploy ocean energy buoys, which will convert the energy from air compressed by the natural rise and fall of waves into electricity.

Northwest Energy Innovations will build its Azura WEC device, which pulls energy from the vertical and horizontal motions of the waves.

Both the buoys and the Azura have been previously tested in smaller-scale prototypes, and both projects will be undertaken at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site — the only grid-connected open-water test site in the United States.

But this isn’t the first time a buoy project has been attempted. In March, Ocean Power Technologies abandoned a plan to build so-called PowerBuoys off the coast of Oregon, citing “a considerable increase in costs” to the Securities and Exchange Commission in a filing (ClimateWire, May 8).

Nonprofit stakeholders at the time said strict licensing requirements from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could have a lot to do with the OPT’s decision to pull out of its plans; companies harvesting tidal power must get as many as 27 permits from federal and state agencies before putting anything into the water.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently forecast that the industry is picking up speed but is still well behind expectations (ClimateWire, Aug. 18).

Some industry and nonprofit stakeholders have said the United States is falling behind countries like Scotland and Canada in funding and developing the technology.

But a release by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy said the testing “is a critical step structured to gather performance data and identify key cost drivers that will accelerate the commercialization and deployment of [marine and hydrokinetic] technologies.”