U.S. Department of Energy Announces $10 Million for Full-Scale Wave Energy Device Testing

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The Department of Energy, in coordination with the Navy, today announced funding for two companies that will continue to advance marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technology as a viable source for America’s clean energy future. Ocean Energy USA and Northwest Energy Innovations will test their innovative wave energy conversion (WEC) devices for one year in new deep water test berths at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) off the waters of Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

MHK technologies convert the energy of waves, tides, rivers, and ocean currents into clean, renewable electricity that can be used by homes and businesses throughout the country. With abundant resources in coastal areas across the United States, MHK technologies hold the potential to help meet America’s renewable energy needs. A total of $10 million has been made available for these in-water tests to collect important performance, reliability, and cost data from innovative WEC devices that are in the late stages of technology development.

  • Ocean Energy USA, of Sacramento, California, will leverage lessons learned from previous quarter-scale test deployments that have led to design improvements for a full-scale deployment of their Ocean Energy Buoy at the WETS. The Ocean Energy Buoy works by harnessing the energy from air that is compressed by the natural rise and fall of ocean waves, and converting it into electricity. The Energy Department and the Navy will collect data throughout the deployment. Research objectives include validating the mooring design and device durability in the open ocean environment, measuring power output at full scale, and evaluating the levelized cost of energy produced by the device.

  • Northwest Energy Innovations (NWEI) of Portland, Oregon, will build and test a full-scale model of its Azura WEC device. Azura extracts power from both the vertical and horizontal motions of waves to maximize energy capture. NWEI is incorporating lessons learned from their half-scale prototype testing in 2012 to modify and improve the full-scale device design. The test will allow the Energy Department and the Navy to gather comprehensive data and evaluate how the device performs in the open ocean. The test data will be used to help validate models generated by the Department’s publicly available, open-source Wave Energy Conversion Simulator tool.

As the nation’s only grid-connected open-water test site, the testing at the Navy’s WETS offshore of Marine Corps Base Hawaii is a critical step structured to gather performance data and identify key cost drivers that will accelerate the commercialization and deployment of MHK technologies. The Navy also supports the need to assess WEC device performance, durability, and environmental impacts by managing the associated infrastructure and testing opportunities to determine the feasibility of using WEC technologies in appropriate locations where local energy costs are high.

The Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality.

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.