Navy Generating Power From Waves in Hawaii

     (CN) — The U.S. Navy is harnessing the natural rise and fall of ocean waves at a test facility in Hawaii, and experts say using waves could generate enough electricity to meet up to one quarter of the United States’ energy needs.
     However, wave energy technology is not as developed as wind and solar power, and significant technical hurdles still must be overcome.
     In order to advance existing wave energy technology, the Navy has built a test site in Hawaii in a bid to establish offshore fueling stations for its fleet and provide electricity to coastal communities in power-starved areas around the world.
     “More power from more places translates to a more agile, more flexible, more capable force,” Joseph Bryan, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, told the Associated Press during an event at the site. “So we’re always looking for new ways to power the mission.”
     The current travels through an undersea cable for about a mile to a military base, where it connects to Oahu’s power grid. This is the first wave-produced electricity to go online in the United States.
     Hawaii is an ideal location to test the technology due to strong waves that often surround the island state. Hawaii also has the nation’s highest electricity costs because of its heavy reliance on oil delivered by sea — and a legislative mandate to get all of its energy from renewable sources by 2045.
     It could be five to 10 years before wave energy technology becomes an affordable alternative to fossil fuels, experts say.
     Developers are still working on creating the best design as some buoys capture the up-and-down motion of the waves, while others measure side-to-side movement. Experts say a machine capable of capturing all the ocean’s movements will be the most effective.
     The United States wants to reduce its carbon emissions by one-third from 2005 levels by 2030, and other states are seeking to create more renewable power in the coming decades.
     “When you think about all of the states that have water along their coasts, there’s quite a bit of wave energy potential,” Jose Zayas, director of the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office at the U.S. Energy Department, told the Associated Press.
     Zayas, whose office helped fund the Hawaii site, estimated that the United States could get 20 to 28 percent of its energy needs from waves without impacting sensitive waters such as marine preserves.
     Europe has been exploring wave energy technology for years, and its financial investment has outpaced the United States threefold over the past decade, according to the trade group the Marine Energy Council.
     “We’re about, I’d say, a decade behind the Europeans,” Alexandra De Visser, the Navy’s Hawaii test site project manager, told the AP.
     Researchers are planning or expanding other test sites in Oregon and California, including Cal Wave, a project run by California Polytechnic State University which aims to provide utility-scale power to Vandenberg Air Force Base.
     As the technology expands, dozens of buoys could be used at once — and could lead to the same opposition wind turbines have faced from environmentalists, tourist groups and local residents.
     “Nobody wants to look out and see wind turbines or wave machines off the coast,” Northwest Energy Innovations CEO Steve Kopf told the AP.

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