You only have to stand in the ocean surf for a minute to understand the power in waves.

PhotoBrekken: “There is a lot of energy available in a small amount of ocean real estate. It’s very forecastable, and it’s fairly predictable and non-variable.”

That’s Ted Brekken, an associate professor at Oregon State University. He says technology to harness wave energy has been around for more than thirty years. As buoys bob up and down in the ocean, their movement can generate power.

But the challenge with wave energy is to create a sustainable business model. Working in the ocean is difficult and expensive, and storms and large waves can damage equipment.

But if wave energy were fully developed, it could supply about six percent of the nation’s energy — which is about the same as we currently get from hydropower.

Brekken: “But, it’s a strongly localized resource, so if you look at the coastal states, where the resource is strong — and that’s particularly the west coast — California, Oregon, Washington — those states, you’re looking at a contribution that may be something closer to in the 10 percent or 15 percent range if fully developed.”

So in coastal states, this form of renewable energy could be the wave of the future.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

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Integrating ocean wave energy at large-scales: A study of the U.S. Pacific Northwest

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David Appell

A regular contributor to Yale Climate Connections since 2012, David Appell, Ph.D., is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon, specializing in the physical sciences, technology, and the environment. His...