Surf’s up!

Written by adam


A new tide. A coming wave of clean energy. An ocean of opportunity. Forget the sun and wind — tidal energy open up an exciting new trove of headline puns for aspiring clean tech writers.

The past week has seen an, ahem, boatload of news regarding wave energy. Most excitingly, the world’s first commercial wave farm went live off the coast of Portugal. The installation has a capacity of 2.25 megawatts and plans to expand to 21 megawatts, enough electricity to power 15,000 homes.

Tidal energy converters come in a variety of forms. The ones in Portugal consist of articulated snakelike platforms. As waves roll past the platforms, the motion drives internal generators. See it in action:

Elsewhere, ScottishPower is planning a large wave farm off the coast of Scotland and Northern Ireland. The project will employ underwater turbines, similar in form and function to windmills, to generate enough power for 60,000 homes.

Closer to home, California regulators just torpedoed (get it? get it?) a proposed trial wave farm to be built by Finavera. The Public Utilities Commission deemed the technology unproven and too expensive. Finavera’s AquaBuOY energy capture system consists of floating devices that bob vertically in the surf, driving seawater through an internal generator. I notice in the picture that they’ve also slapped wind turbines and solar panels on top of the buoys, which seems like gilding the lily. Maybe they could also try getting an ethanol plant and a tiny nuclear reactor on there as well.

Finally, Alla Weinstein is pushing forward a proposal to erect a floating wind turbine off the coast of Oregon. A floating wind turbine is another flavor of offshore wind farm, with the advantage that the turbines can be assembled on land and then sited in deeper water than conventional offshore wind turbines.

What does this have to do with wave energy? Well, not much really, but Weinstein is the creator of the AquaBuOY technology that she later sold to Finavera. She’s also one of the clean tech entrepreneurs featured in *Earth: The Sequel*, and it looks like she’s still hammering away on ocean-based solutions to our energy needs. Good for her.

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