The United States is catching the next wave in energy—literally. This week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it had slated $16 million for 17 projects that will create the technology to reap energy from waves, tides and currents. Together, these projects will increase the power production and reliability of wave and tidal devices and help gather valuable data on how deployed devices interact with the surrounding environment.
Right now, according to DOE, the United States uses about 4,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year—1,420 TWh of which could be supplied by wave and tidal energy. Indeed, DOE estimates that ocean current, ocean thermal, and hydropower could potentially provide 15 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030.
That’s not just a drop in the bucket. In fact, one terawatt-hour of electricity is enough to power 85,000 homes, and developing a small fraction of the available wave and tidal energy resource could allow for millions of American homes to be powered with this clean, reliable form of renewable energy.
“Wave and tidal energy represent a large, untapped resource for the United States and responsible development of this clean, renewable energy source is an important part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy,” commented Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson.
Advanced Wave and Tidal Energy Technologies
Of the amount funded, the Energy Department announced that about $13.5 million would cover eight projects to help U.S. companies build durable, efficient wave and tidal devices that reduce overall costs and maximize the amount of energy captured. The projects will develop new drivetrain, generator and structural components; as well as software that predicts ocean conditions and adjusts device settings accordingly to optimize power production.
Another $2.4 million will finance nine projects that will gather and analyze environmental data from wave and tidal projects, as well as potential development areas. As this nascent energy industry grows, these projects will help ensure that potential environmental impacts are addressed proactively and that projects can be developed efficiently and responsibly.
Through a broader collaborative effort between the Energy Department and the Department of the Interior to build a sustainable, world-class offshore energy industry, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is providing $300,000 toward these awards.
Among the largest projects are the following:
- Ocean Renewable Power Company, LLC, of Portland, Maine, will investigate, analyze, and model a control system for their grid-connected TidGen System that predicts tidal conditions based on measurements ahead of the device, and uses them to adjust turbine settings for optimal performance. The improved control scheme could more efficiently harvest energy from highly turbulent water. The project has the potential apply to a range of other tidal turbine devices. DOE Funding: $1.93 million. Total Project Value: $2.4 million.
- ABB, Inc., of Raleigh, N.C., in collaboration with Resolute Marine Engineering and Texas A&M University, will build a compact direct-drive generator and demonstrate its viability in Resolute Marine Energy’s SurgeWEC wave energy device. When complete, this design will allow replacement of Resolute’s existing hydraulic power take-off – the drivetrain and generator assembly that converts mechanical energy into electricity – with an electrical power take-off, resulting in increased operation time. The goal is to produce a generator 50 percent smaller than a traditional direct-drive generator. DOE Funding: $2 million. Total Project Value: $2.5 million.
- Columbia Power Technologies of Charlottesville, Va., will demonstrate the use of a novel, high-performance power take-off module—the drivetrain and generator assembly that converts mechanical energy into electricity—for their StingRAY wave energy converter. The new power take-off system will use a generator and other unique equipment to provide high-efficiency, low-maintenance energy conversion and storage. The project seeks not only to improve cost- competitiveness, but also to reduce maintenance costs in deployed wave energy devices. DOE Funding: $3 million. Total Project Value: $3.75 million.
- Ocean Renewable Power Company will also develop and test components—including bearings, couplings, and a subsea electrical generator—for an advanced power take-off system—the drivetrain and generator assembly that converts mechanical energy into electricity, suitable for wave, tidal, and current energy devices. In addition, the company will conduct studies to measure the component and system performance benefits and to identify how best to incorporate these components into their existing turbine technologies, which include tidal, riverine, and ocean current applications. This project seeks to develop a common set of components for wave, tidal, and current energy devices that will improve their power-to-weight ratio and availability. DOE Funding: $3 million. Total Project Value: $4.5 million.
- Ocean Energy USA, LLC, of Sacramento, Calif., will develop and conduct wave-tank testing on a cost-effective hull design for their deep-water wave energy device. This project aims to improve the power-to-weight ratio of the device and accelerate the commercial deployment of this technology. DOE Funding: $1 million. Total Project Value: $1.25 million.
- Ocean Power Technologies, Inc., of Pennington, N.J., will work on developing the float and spar —or cylindrical body— components of their PowerBuoy wave energy converter. These two components account for 50 percent of the device’s mass, so improving materials, manufacturability, and durability of the float and spar could reduce the cost of energy and significantly improve the device’s power-to-weight ratio. This work will make the PowerBuoy more reliable and marketable. DOE Funding: $1million. Total Project Value: $1.25 million.
A list of all projects is available on the DOE website.
Edited by Alisen Downey