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A Pollution-Free Plan to Power 100 Million American Homes

by | published August 9th, 2014

Anyone who’s ever stood in the ocean knows its power. During a storm, ocean waves can pound houses, trees and cars into rubble. The steady waves can pulverize rocks and sweep swimmers out to sea in an instant.

But what if you could turn the pounding of the waves into a pollution-free source of energy?

It just might be possible. The US Navy is backing the first project that will use ocean waves to generate electricity and feed it into the electricity grid in Hawaii.

And there are several other companies chasing the same holy grail …

Turning Water into Electricity

The power contained within ocean waves is almost beyond comprehension. Researchers at the University of Oregon calculate that just 0.2% of the energy in ocean waves could power the entire world.

The trick is how to harness it.

The Navy believes it can be done. This fall, privately owned Northwest Energy Innovations, with backing from the Navy’s Ocean Renewable Energy project and the University of Hawaii, will test its prototype Azura device off the Oahu coast.

The technology uses wave motion to move a float that drives a generator.

As Kent noted in a recent article on tidal power, “this is an exciting new development in renewable energy. There is no doubt the potential here is impressive…”

Impressive… and speculative. As Kent observed, “Any move into the tidal wave sector remains a high-risk investment move. Still, in the more diversified energy balance emerging, the tides will have their place.”

Investing in Ocean Power Pioneers

The only public company currently using waves to generate electricity is Ocean Power Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: OPTT) . A pioneer in this renewable resource technology, the company invented a buoy that generates electricity as it bobs in the waves. Currently, the company has power generating projects off the coasts of three continents.

But it’s not the only buoy in the sea.

Scotland-based Pelamis Wave Power uses waves passing through floating tubes that look like giant sea snakes to generate electricity. Anchored miles offshore, the “snakes” naturally spin on a chain to face the waves, and the waves flowing through the tubes pump hydraulic fluid that powers an onboard generator. The company has six full-scale machines off the coast of Orkney, and a 10-machine “wave farm” should be operational off the Sutherland coast by 2017.

Oceanlinx, based in Australia, uses wave motion to push a piston through a cylinder, driving a column of air that spins a turbine. It currently has a two-year demonstration project operating off the coast of Australia.

Other companies are testing even more varied technologies, from underwater versions of the familiar wind turbine to “boxes” of flexible membranes that use wave motion to compress air and drive generators.

Even the U.S. Air Force sees the potential. “The Terminator,” inspired by airplanes, has wing-shaped turbine blades that force water to flow faster over one side than the other, creating different pressures on each surface. Similar to the way air lifts an airplane wing, the flow causes the blades to “lift” and power a generator. The Terminator could utilize 99% of the ocean’s energy, according to its inventor, roughly double the efficiency of existing technology. A prototype will be tested off the coast of Texas later this year.

An Industry Growing by 64.1% a Year

Will these demonstration projects turn into investment opportunities? Will ocean power become a viable industry?

Market analysts say yes.

According to a market report by Transparency Market Research, the wave and tidal energy market was valued at $25 million in 2013, and is expected to grow to $10.1 billion by 2020. That would represent a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 64.1%.

Others see even more potential.

In 2011, the UK Carbon Trust estimated that the Global Marine Energy sector could be worth $760 billion by 2050.

70% of U.S. Power From the Ocean

How much power could the ocean generate? Here’s one way to look at it.

Wave and tidal resource potential is typically measured in terawatt-hours/year (TWh/yr). One TWH/yr will supply about 93,850 average U.S. homes.

According to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the total recoverable wave power along the US continental shelf is 1,170 TWh/yr, or enough to power about 110 million homes in the U.S.

That would be about 70% of all U.S. homes.

Will ocean power live up to its promise? The US Navy and Air Force certainly see its potential.

Whether investors will remains to be seen.

PS. In case you missed it, Dr. Moors recently delivered an urgent briefing on how the chaos in the Middle East is about to “go global.” According to Kent, it’s only a matter of time before the “Jihad Spring” spreads like wildfire and touches Europe and the U.S. To get Kent’s full report, including what it means for your money, please go here.

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  1. Robert Penman
    August 10th, 2014 at 12:18 | #1

    Kent – It is interesting to read all the effort that is being undertaken to reduce soot in the atmosphere, and to lower the COx and NOx pollutants from the engines that drive our planes, trains and autos. I bring this up because I have received 3 patents on a device that could solve a large share of those problems. It is able to be retrofitted onto existing equipment, as well as new OEM products in each of those categories.

    Basically my patent covers the conversion of liquid petroleum fuels on a continuous basis from the fuel tank to the final gaseous phase product into the combustion chamber. Because the gaseous product has precisely the same chemical composition as the liquid, the advantage is that it is increased in Heat Content (Enthalpy), which contributes to increased MPG, elimination of 100% of the soot, and reduces COx and NOx by approx 50% or more.

    Why all this comes about is that the gaseous phase diesel (for example), or octane, and jet-fuel, now will combust with 100% perfect combustion. If you would compare Natural Gas which has an extremely low Enthalpy, compared to my converted gaseous phase fuel, you will find that the converted gaseous phase has ≈ 7.5 times higher Enthalpy. Yet Natural Gas can still make an engine run, soot free, and with lower pollutants. Its’ biggest drawback being the large container of liquid phase Natural Gas has so many drawbacks, in addition to the low Enthalpy.

    So why will autos, aircraft, and diesel engine builders not use my product? Thus far every proposal to auto,
    diesel engine bulder, and aircraft engine builders have boycotted even acknowledging my proposals. One company, a diesel engine builder told me, forget us. Our policy is NIH “Not Invented Here.”

    So with your background, and numerous contacts throughout the world, would you be interested in reading and assessing my proposal? The energy for conversion is virtually free, and is furnished by the engine itself.

  2. Rick Chalker
    August 10th, 2014 at 18:54 | #2

    Re: A Pollution-Free Plan to Power 100 Million American Homes

    It is important to remember that power contained within ocean waves must be sent over transmission lines and distributed just like existing fossil fuel, nuclear and other power generation. Solar companies like to brag about how they can place panels on your roof and generate electricity that you can sell back to the “grid”. This is many times more expensive than generating solar power at “solar farms” and transmitting the power to the end user. If tax credits were not provided to those that can “afford” to install dedicated solar panels on their home or business, solar would not be installed. That is not cost effective to society.

    Electricity costs in the pre-deregulation period were increasing because of fuel costs and “bad government regulation” which went hand-in-hand. Good regulation kept electricity rates in check, for the most part, and the goal of good regulators was to ensure lowest cost electricity to constituents while maintaining sound financially utility companies. During deregulation, electricity rates surged in deregulating states, and unlike free market businesses, prices never returned to where they truly should be. A truly good regulated electric company is still the lower cost provider and is a relatively sound investment.

    States that have forced electric utilities to spend stupidly on “green” energy and other less efficient technologies over lowest cost generation processes have forced rates even higher. Government that pushes higher cost technologies and higher cost electricity on their constituents adversely impacts jobs, productivity, tax collection, and quality of life – especially on the least fortunate of their citizens.

    All that said, it will be 20 years or more before tidal power becomes effective as a reliable generating source. If the US would pull its proverbial head out of its poorly regulated a**, we would have a national energy policy that supports lowest cost “base” energy production, period. Once we establish that premise then we can mix in a variety of “experimental” and “green” energy processes that meet societal “feel good” needs. ALWAYS, ALWAYS remember that CONSERVATION is the lowest cost base “generation”.

    Base generation should consist of CONSERVATION, nuclear, natural gas and some “clean” coal until such other technologies can match the cost effectiveness of these technologies. Our cost of electricity would drop substantially if regulators respond to this guiding premise: Lowest Cost Generation First. Electric rates and technologies that allow for conservation, energy storage, peak reducing and peak altering technologies should play a key part in this energy policy.

    Solar and wind have been expanded and generating costs have been reduced because of increased production, but mainly because of improved technology. Did increased production drive the technology? Not if you believe that cellular technology drove the increase in mobile phones over land lines. It was cost and mobility that drove increased production. Just as we should have let technology drive the cost down before demanding electric providers slam citizens with exorbitant costs in the name of “green” energy which was one of the key drivers in manufacturing leaving the US and millions of jobs being lost.

    Wave energy will be a future component of a sound energy policy just as wind, solar, battery storage, hydrogen and other energy production/storage technologies. To have a sustainable energy policy the US needs a mix of all technologies based on lowest cost first for the sake of all Americans and the world.

  3. Chuck S
    August 10th, 2014 at 19:00 | #3

    The big question is always cost effectiveness – mainly cost effectiveness without government subsidies. How much material will it take to generate 500-1000 Megawatts, the size of a conventional power plant? I think it will take a number of square miles and lots of material.

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