US uncorks $16 million for 17 projects to capture wave energy

Department of Energy wants to develop energy generating systems from waves, tides and currents.

The US Energy Department this week said it would spend $16 million for seventeen projects to help research and develop energy generating systems from waves, tides and currents.   

The energy agency says the US could generate up to 1,400 terawatt hours of potential power per year. One terawatt-hour of electricity is enough to power 85,000 homes, according to the agency.

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The US lags many parts of the world in using or at least planning to utilize wave and tidal power for energy.

A report in The Guardian.com site recently outlined the benefits and the challenges of using waves and currents for power: "The latest report on Renewables from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) offers lukewarm support for electricity generation from tidal streams. The UK has some of the fiercest tidal currents in the world, but the CCC says the tidal turbines will deliver energy at a higher cost than PV in 2040.  The tides around Britain's coasts sweep huge volumes of water back and forth at substantial speeds. The energy contained in the tidal races off the west of the UK is as great as anywhere in the world. Because water is a thousand or so times heavier than air, the maximum speeds of perhaps 6 meters a second are capable of generating far more electricity per square meter of turbine area than a windmill. The Pentland Firth, the narrow run of water between the north-east tip of Scotland and the Orkney islands, is possibly the best place in the world to turn racing tides into electricity. The challenges are immense: massive steel structures need to be made that survive huge stresses, day after day."

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The idea behind the new DOE investment will increase the power production and reliability of wave and tidal devices and help gather valuable data on how deployed devices interact with the surrounding environment.

Some of the projects from the DOE's list include:

  • Dehlsen Associates, LLC, in Santa Barbara, California, will develop advanced controls software for their multi‐pod Centipod wave device. The new software will help predict future wave conditions and provide control signals to adjust current system settings to make the Centipod's power output more responsive, maximizing energy capture, reducing loading, and increasing power plant durability.DOE Funding: $500,000. Total Project Value: $625,000.
  • Ocean Renewable Power Company, LLC, in Portland, Maine, will investigate, analyze, and model a control system for their grid‐connected TidGen System that predicts tidal conditions based on measurements ahead of the device, and uses them to adjust turbine settings for optimal performance. The improved control scheme could more efficiently harvest energy from highly turbulent water. The project has the potential apply to a range of other tidal turbine devices. DOE Funding: $1,930,000. Total Project Value: $2,400,000.
  • Resolute Marine Energy, Inc., in Boston, Massachusetts, will develop a feedback control algorithm for a wave energy converter device. The algorithms will factor in wave dynamics and local data, ultimately establishing a decision system sensitive to wave forecasts and measurement errors. The company estimates the control system, upon completion and validation in one of their full‐scale SurgeWECTM wave energy devices, will produce improvements in capture efficiency, capacity, and energy cost. DOE Funding: $1,000,000. Total Project Value: $1,360,000.
  • ABB, Inc., in Raleigh, North Carolina, in collaboration with Resolute Marine Engineering and Texas A&M University, will build a compact direct‐drive generator and demonstrate its viability in Resolute Marine Energy's SurgeWECTM wave energy device. When complete, this design will allow replacement of Resolute's existing hydraulic power takeoff - the drivetrain and generator assembly that converts mechanical energy into electricity - with an electrical power take‐off, resulting in increased operation time. The goal is to produce a generator 50 percent smaller than a traditional direct‐drive generator. DOE Funding: $2,000,000. Total Project Value: $2,500,000.
  • Columbia Power Technologies in Charlottesville, Virginia, will demonstrate the use of a novel, high‐performance power take‐off module, the drivetrain and generator assembly that converts mechanical energy into electricity, for their StingRAY wave energy converter. The new power take‐off system will use a generator and other unique equipment to provide high‐efficiency, low‐maintenance energy conversion and storage. The project seeks to not only improve cost competitiveness, but also reduce maintenance costs in deployed wave energy devices. DOE Funding: $3,000,000. Total Project Value: $3,750,000.
  • University of Maine, in Orono, Maine, will use data on the interactions of fish with ORPC's TidGen tidal turbine to predict the probability of fish encountering marine and hydrokinetic devices. Building on data gathered since 2010-which established baseline patterns of fish distribution at the turbine's location-this project will provide post-deployment data for comparison, improve techniques for distinguishing between fish species using undersea acoustic sensors, and implement a probability‐of‐ encounter model. This work will aid assessment of possible effects of marine and hydrokinetic devices on species or groups of species, and improve understanding of potential longer term effects of a hydrokinetic device on local fish populations. DOE Funding: $394,000. Total Project Value: $494,000.
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, will quantify the distribution, behavioral response, and general patterns of fish movement around an operating tidal energy turbine. The research team will conduct an analysis of individual fish movements using previously unanalyzed sonar data collected at Verdant Power's Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project, located in the East River near Manhattan. This study will provide the industry with a complete analysis of fish interaction data at a full‐size turbine that developers and regulators can use to estimate the likelihood of encounter and injury at tidal and riverine sites. The tools refined in this study will be widely applicable to other sites and conditions, and the results from this study will be used to refine estimates of potential effects, design mitigation to minimize impacts, and develop monitoring protocol. DOE Funding: $95,000. Total Project Value: $132,000.

For a complete list go here.

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