Energy from Oceans and Rivers to Power the U.S. Grid
Sep 08, 2010 - STATE DEPARTMENT RELEASE/ContentWorks
There was the sun and the wind -- and now comes the power
of water. If the promise of this fledgling energy technology
holds true, it could eventually be as affordable and viable
as fossil fuel and nuclear power.
In late 2010, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) expects to
become the first ocean wave-energy company to produce power
for the U.S. electric grid. If things go as planned, the
New Jersey-based corporation would also become the world's
first to continuously produce wave-generated power for
"We really believe we have an incredible source of
energy, and a source that is much more concentrated than,
for example, wind energy," said George Taylor, OPT's
founder and executive chairman. "We're late out of
the starting block, but we expect in three years to be
a very important part of the renewables game."
Entrepreneurs who are exploring how to best harness energy
from waves, tides and currents in oceans and rivers --
so-called hydrokinetic power -- are starting small.
Hydro Green Power, which today claims the nation's only
federally licensed hydrokinetic site in the Mississippi
River, began to sell power to the Minnesota grid in August
2009. The Texas-based company specializes in capturing
river currents downstream from existing locks and dams
where the water flows fast.
The company's turbines near an existing hydroelectric
dam owned by the Minnesota town of Hastings produces power
for about 70 homes, based on average household use. Hydro
Green Power plans a number of projects for the Midwestern
and eastern United States that one day could serve thousands
OPT's first commercial project in Hawaii, made in collaboration
with the U.S. Navy, initially will produce enough power
to serve about 40 homes when it comes online in a few months.
Next, the company plans to open a wave-energy generating
station off the coast of Oregon in 2012 that will power
OPT reached what's known as a stakeholder agreement with
citizen groups and state and federal agencies earlier this
month, paving the way for an official permit to operate
the wave-energy station. The company expects the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that regulates
U.S. power producers, to issue a full license for its first
Oregon project within a year.
The U.S. government so far has issued about 140 preliminary
permits (PDF, 3.1MB) for hydrokinetic projects around the
Traditional hydropower plants, which use dams to generate
electricity, today account for about 10 percent of the
nation's power supply. With wave, current and tidal energy
plants coming online in the years ahead, water power eventually
could wean a significant number of American homes and businesses
off fossil-generated power that contributes to climate
change, officials say.
POWER SOURCE CLOSE TO HOMES
Unlike wind, which comes and goes, waves are constant
and predictable, Taylor said. The floating buoys used to
capture wave power have most of their equipment below the
surface of the water where it cannot be seen. That tends
to make them less controversial than wind turbines that
obscure views, he said.
Another advantage, he said, is that power from ocean waves
is captured near coasts where about half the world's population
After the first large-scale project in Oregon goes online
two years from now, OPT plans to get a second, bigger station
up and running along the same coast in 2013. The company
has received two grants worth a total of $3.5 million from
the U.S. Energy Department to develop its wave-power system.
Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, is known for its green
policies, and the state worked closely with OPT to get
the first power proposal reviewed by involved entities
in the area and to keep the project on track. The prospect
of getting new jobs in the area was part of the attraction.
"The manufacture of the first buoy has already created
dozens of green-energy jobs in Oregon, and when the 10-buoy
wave power project is built, a whole new industry will
be created to benefit our coastal communities," Oregon
Governor Ted Kulongoski said in a recent statement. "This
is an exciting time for our state."
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information
Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)
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