The power wave: A group of wave-energy devices, each capable of generating one megawatt of power, could be deployed a few kilometers away from coasts.
Chaplin is testing a model that is 25 centimeters wide and about eight meters long. So far, it seems to do what a simple theory predicts that it should, Chaplin says. The lab tests will last three years.
Deployed along the U.S. coast, wave devices could provide the United States–and the world–with a substantial renewable-energy boost. The contiguous United States has a wave-energy resource of 2,100 terawatt-hours per year–about half the country’s total electricity consumption, says Roger Bedard of the power-industry-funded nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute.
But how much of the ocean’s energy can be exploited in the United States is open to speculation, Bedard says. The technology is still immature and does not have nearly as much support from the government as solar and wind power do. What’s more, its implementation faces tremendous regulatory and social hurdles in the United States. Bedard estimates that about 250 terawatt-hours of energy in the United States could reasonably come from waves–about as much as the country gets from hydropower.