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

June 16, 2004

U.S. Research Groups Investigate Wave Energy Technologies

Model of a proposed wave energy system, with mooring devices radiating out from its corners.

A model of a wave energy system under development by Australia's Energetech.
Credit: Energetech Australia Pty Ltd

The Electricity Innovation Institute (E2I) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) announced on June 14th that they have identified sites in four states for possible demonstration plants to convert offshore wave energy from the ocean into electricity. E2I and EPRI have identified a number of potential sites in Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Maine. By September, the institutes will pick the best site for each state and produce a detailed study for that site.

E2I and EPRI are collaborating with DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory and with energy agencies and utilities from the four states to produce a conceptual system design for a pilot plant and future commercial-size facility in each state. This will include estimates of the construction costs and power-generating potential for each plant. The study will help determine whether wave energy will be economically practicable in the United States within the next decade and will make a case either for or against additional funding to develop this technology.

The wide variety of offshore wave energy conversion devices capture the kinetic energy produced by the bobbing or pitching motion of the ocean via floating platforms. The potential energy production is significant: the average wave off the Northwest coast carries about 25 kilowatts of energy per meter of wave crest. At 50 percent efficiency, a 50-meter-wide device would produce about 625 kilowatts of electricity. See the E2I press release.

The E2I and EPRI project also produced a report in May that provides a detailed assessment of 12 wave energy conversion technologies, using information provided by the device manufacturers. The report is among the most comprehensive summaries to date of this nascent energy technology. See all the wave energy reports on the E2I Web site.