Department of Energy tests wave power tech

Posted by Susan Kraemer, EarthTechling

A relatively modest grant of $500,000 is being made available by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to test a wave power project for a year.

The department recently confirmed, in a Funding Opportunity Announcement, that the funds will be used to deploy and test one wave energy device for one year - in an effort to assess the technical readiness of at least one of the wave technologies. 

The test is to be held at the Department of Navy’s newly created Wave Energy Test Site off of Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, on the island of Oahu.

But it takes over $5 million dollars for a decent test of a wave energy device, AW-Energy’s CEO told me a few years ago.

This is because a wave device must both be a huge heavy industrial mechanical machine able to withstand the rigors of the marine environment, and yet also – as a pilot test – these are all one-of-a-kind, since the wave energy industry is still very much at the pilot stage. This is part of what holds back the development of the wave energy industry, despite its huge promise.

That makes this funding level rather paltry, as it is a approximately a tenth (or less!) of what is needed, if the above-mentioned comment was correct. Of course, there has been some progress in recent months to significantly reduce the costs. 

Indede, we covered the deployment this year of the Ocean Sentinel, a testing platform off the coast of Oregon that makes it possible to test wave devices without having to hook them up to the national grid. It will be a game changer in providing the first test station on the U.S. mainland.

U.S.-based companies would probably be considered first for the funding, but companies like AW-Energy, which makes the WaveRoller, and their fellow Finnish company Wello might want to apply for the Hawaiian test anyway, since the DOE is looking for companies that have already got a track record of sorts in pre-pilot tests of their devices.

The huge potential of wave power is unrealized as yet. While the U.S. total electricity consumption is 4,000 terawatt hours of electricity annually, the DOE estimates that nearly half could in theory be supplied by wave energy alone, with over 1,170 terawatt hours a year available off our coasts. If even half that could realistically deployed, it would be capable of supplying 25 percent of our electricity.

Susan Kraemer, EarthTechling