Oregon is a player in a nationwide push to produce power from waves. Next spring, Ocean Power Technologies is set to anchor a power buoy off Reedsport, and has plans to build 10-buoy wave park soon after. In Washington, the Snohomish County Public Utility District plans to install two large test turbines in Puget Sound to see if tidal energy development is feasible there.
A story in the Los Angeles Times today notes tidal energy is capable of providing 10 percent of America’s electricity, but the industry is still a ways from realizing its potential:
“Tapping the tides is the latest niche in the search for affordable, renewable energy. Widespread use may be years off, but advocates say tides and other hydrokinetic systems, from ocean waves to free-flowing rivers, ultimately could meet up to 10% of America’s electric power needs — more than hydropower dams now supply.
Pilot projects or studies are underway not only in Hawaii, but in Washington’s Puget Sound, in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, off the coasts of Florida, California, Oregon and Maine, in New York City’s East River, along the Mississippi River and elsewhere.
“These are coastal resources, and most people live along the coasts,” said Hoyt Battey, a water power expert at the U.S. Energy Department. “When you’re talking about providing half the power of Alaska or Hawaii, or half the power of New York, that’s significant.”
For now, the technology for marine and hydrokinetic power remains in its infancy, and costs are prohibitive. Ireland, Denmark, Portugal, South Korea, China, Australia and other nations have been testing the waters for years. Commercial operations are rare.
“It’s much more difficult to do things underwater than on dry land,” said Robert Thresher, research fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. “The water tears stuff apart. There’s fish, rust, fouling … all kinds of problems.”