Magazine article E Magazine

Wave Power: The Uncertain Frontier of Ocean-Based Energy Development

Magazine article E Magazine

Wave Power: The Uncertain Frontier of Ocean-Based Energy Development

Article excerpt

In the 2007 state legislative session, Oregon passed a renewable energy standard bill mandating that the state's largest utilities get 25 percent of their energy from homegrown renewable sources by 2025. To meet the requirement, Oregon is investing in several green energy technologies, including eight wave energy projects along some 360 miles of coastline. This represents the largest, most concentrated and fast-tracked development of wave energy anywhere in North America.

The idea of harnessing the ocean's power has been around for decades, but only recently have governments, investors and industries begun to embrace it as a feasible technology. Energy traveling through water is roughly 1,000 times denser than wind. The outlook is promising and investment in companies that provide this technology is spiking.

But to measure environmental impact, there must be physical projects in the ocean. Wave farms might affect many aquatic species. Environmentalists and commercial fishermen are concerned with marine entanglement, whale and fish migration and the effects of electromagnetic fields (which are generated by the wave energy buoys) on electro-sensitive species like sharks, rays and salmon.

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Proposals include offshore buoy arrays anchored to the sea floor, smaller offshore oil-platform-like structures and onshore facilities that are built on the coastline or the end of a jetty. Two of the main players working in Oregon, Ocean Power Technologies and Finavera Renewables, claim that about seven buoys are needed to create one megawatt (MW) of power. …

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