This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

October 18, 2006

California and Oregon Pursue Tidal and Wave Energy Projects

Two projects in California and Oregon may soon be the first in the United States to convert the ocean's energy into electricity. In San Francisco, California, Mayor Gavin Newsom has announced that the city will explore the possibility of generating power from the tidal flow under the Golden Gate Bridge. In late September, the City of San Francisco launched a $150,000 feasibility study to examine the tidal energy project, which could generate up to 35 megawatts of power, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The feasibility study should be completed in late 2007 or early 2008. As noted in the mayor's press release, a small-scale pilot project to capture tidal flow is currently under construction in the East River of New York City, while similar projects are being considered in Washington and Alaska. See the mayor's press release and EPRI's tidal energy reports.

Photo of a buoy in the ocean labeled OPT.

The top of the PowerBuoy looks like a normal buoy, but a large piston-like device is submerged beneath it.
Credit: Ocean Power Technologies

The Oregon wave energy project is further along, as Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) has already received a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to develop a project off the coast of Reedsport, which is southwest of Eugene. When OPT applied for the permit in July, the company said it initially plans to install a 2-megawatt wave power project about 2.5 miles off the coast, where the ocean depth is about 55 yards. OPT plans to eventually scale-up the plant to 50 megawatts. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski recently designated the wave energy plant as an "Oregon Solutions" project, a designation that will mobilize a community-based effort to support the project through collaboration among local government, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and the state. The effort is meant to shorten the licensing process and speed the development of the project. See the governor's press release and the Oregon Solutions Web site.

The OPT technology, called a "PowerBuoy," is a tethered buoy that employs a submerged piston-like structure to capture the motion of the waves and convert the wave energy into electricity. Late last year, OPT deployed its 40-kilowatt PowerBuoys off the coasts of New Jersey and near the Marine Corps Base on Oahu. OPT also plans to install a 5-megawatt wave energy project off the coast of Cornwall, England, and a 1.25-megawatt wave energy project off the coast of the Cantabria region in northern Spain. See the press releases and technology description on the OPT Web site.