Ocean Buoys to Provide 10% of US Energy Requirements


With so much of our planet covered in the stuff, it is a surprise that water does not receive the attention that renewable technologies like wind and solar do. Nevertheless, with renewable energy being the catchphrase of many countries at the moment, advancements are being made towards a future where our oceans will provide us with electricity.

After two years, an oversized yellow buoy floating five miles off the southern tip of Long Beach Island has definitely proved its technology feasible. With the rise and fall of each wave, pistons slide up and down inside a cylinder within the buoy, generating electricity.

Though the little buoy doesn’t make much in the way of electricity, it makes enough to power its onboard systems, and the occasional message back home, to its manufacturer, Ocean Power Technologies of Pennington, N.J. Co-founder of OPT George W. Taylor, a 74-year-old engineer, grew up a young surfer in Australia (the best place to be a young surfer) and knew all about the power of the ocean.

Taylor looks at his one buoy as the predecessor for large farms of buoys, all generating electricity across the planet, on coasts with much larger waves than New Jersey. Indeed, ocean energy is “probably the last of the large natural resources not yet investigated for producing electricity in the United States,” according to a report from the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute.

Roger Bedard, the EPR institute’s ocean energy expert, believes that the potential for hydro electricity generation is “significant.” In fact, he believes it could generate up to 10% of America’s power needs, accounting all current inefficiencies and practicalities. Perhaps, in the future, that 10% could grow as power grids change and adapt to handle the sometimes irregular influx of power generated from wind, solar and water.

Europe is already well ahead of the US in terms of ocean technology. Only recently did a wave farm begin operations in Portugal, and plans are popping up all across the UK – including off the western coasts – to make use of the violent North Atlantic.



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