With the announcement yesterday that the White House has put on hold the drill-baby-drill program the Bush administration launched in the waning weeks of his tenure, the secretary of the interior indicated that they are looking at a more comprehensive coastal energy policy, including wave and wind power.
With this in mind I thought now would be a good time to take a quick look at wave and tidal power and how close we are to real world applications of this technology.
This is where the North Sea (between UK and Scandinavia) and North Atlantic collide, resulting in significant wave generation.
Anyone that's ever toured the British Isles and in particular the West Coasts of Ireland and Scotland will have seen first hand the power of these waves, you can see it in the rock formations, pummelled century after century with the energy contained in the Atlantic as its blown eastward.
Pelamis is probably the firm that has made the greatest progress in completing a proof of concept and generating meaningful power from wave motion reliably and for an extended duration. Using a snake-like device, the rise and fall of the device as waves pass throught it results in the generation of electricity by converting the kinetic energy.
A cross section of the technology illustrates this here :
After a successful first generation test, Pelamis is now developing a second generation unit. Ultimately they expect to chain a series of these generators together and generate enough power by wave farm to power a small town. This isn't anywhere near the output of a full scale coal plant, but the potential for siting multiple farms over the horizon makes the utility of this technology more and more interesting.
There is a lot of coverage given to wind and solar power in the US right now, and we are beginning to see some interest in geothermal power too. However, for some reason, wave power is just being completely overlooked. If you just look at the west coast for example, and in particular, the area west of Oregon, the nearshore over the horizon area of the Pacific here would probably be an ideal area for the development of wave energy. I have heard there is some research that has taken place here, but there has been little talk of this in the media or in Congress.
I hope we see investments in wave power alongside solar and wind and geothermal energy in the near future, hopefully funded partially by the reinvestment (stimulus) plan. Its time we tapped into wave power, its a no brainer. This an often overlooked and relatively pain free way of generating energy, pollution free.
Please write to your member of Congress and let them know you support Wave energy generation and wish to see solutions like this brought to the US.
A question was raised as to the scale this installation would need to take to power a "small town"...according to the provided chart 20,000 homes could be powered by an installation covering just 1 square kilometer of ocean, not that large in the grand scheme of things.