Wave energy is among the impressive list of renewable energy resources that is being developed in the United States. New Jersey-based developer, Ocean Power Technologies has launched a project that features the nation’s first commercial wave power farm off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon. Once the project is completed, wave energy will generate power for several hundred homes in Oregon. The wave power farm operates on the wave energy that is created when a float on a buoy flows with the natural up and down movement of the waves.
This action subsequently causes an attached plunger to follow the same kind of ebb and flow movement. The plunger is attached to a hydraulic pump that changes the vertical movement to a circular motion, which drives an electric generator to produce electricity that is sent to shore through submerged cables.
When the initial project is finished, the first $4 million dollar buoy will measure 150 feet tall by 40 feet wide, weighing 200 tons. Nine more of these crafts will be set in motion by the year 2012 for a total cost of $60 million dollars. About four hundred homes will receive electricity from Oregon’s wave power farm by the completion of the project.
The wave energy project has promising potential, but has encountered some degree of skepticism and is faced with several areas of concern. One factor is that wave power is still in the early stages of development and is rather costly, running about five or six times more than wind power. Secondly, many people question how the buoys can be stabilized in the water to gather the energy from wave power. Another concerning factor is that waves are so unpredictable, and the size of the waves could result in either equipment damage of lack of cost effectiveness.
The wave power farm is a developing renewable energy source that could potentially compete with wind and solar energy, although it has had a bit of a shaky start. The first commercial wave power farm was developed in Portugal in 2008, but the project was suspended indefinitely last year for financial reasons. In addition, a wave-powered technology that was developed by a Canadian company sank off the Oregon coast two years ago.
The Oregon wave power farm is being funded by several sources, including Oregon tax credits, Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative and the U.S. Department of Energy.
The wave power farm concept has a great deal of promise and there are other projects around the world that are being developed in Spain, Scotland, Western Australia and off the coast of Cornwall, England. In the United States, Oregon Power Technologies is developing a wave power technology program in Hawaii in conjunction with the U.S. Navy.