A Pollution-Free Plan to Power 100 Million American Homes
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?
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.