The Leading Edge

Lever-operated wave energy device under development

SwellFuel is developing a device, called a lever-operated pivoting float, to convert wave energy to electricity.

The device consists of a horizontal float device that is attached to a lever arm. A rising wave causes the float to pivot upward at its attachment to the lever arm, and the float pivots back down as the wave subsides. The generator inside the lever arm uses this pivoting motion to produce electricity. Using this arrangement, the device is able to capture both the horizontal thrust and the vertical lifting forces of the waves. The entire structure is held in place by a cable that anchors it to the ocean floor.

A 100-watt prototype of the lever-operated pivoting float has been tested several times. In December 2007, it was used to provide light for a boat parade in Galveston, Texas. The company also has produced prototypes with capacities of 20 watts, 1 kW, and 5 kW.

SwellFuel has licensed the device to a company for development in seven countries in central America.

U.S., Hawaii partner to advance ocean energy, other renewables 

The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative is working to develop the state’s renewable energy resources, including ocean energy. This initiative is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy and the state of Hawaii.

The goal of this partnership is to help shift the state’s energy system from one fueled primarily by oil to one powered primarily by renewables. Currently, imported fossil fuels meet more than 90 percent of Hawaii’s energy needs.

The partnership is expected to help Hawaii meet its goal of using renewable resources to meet 70 percent or more of its energy needs by 2030.

Two ocean projects are under development in Hawaii:

– A 2.7-MW wave energy project, owned by Oceanlinx Ltd., that will consist of three floating wave generator platforms less than a mile off Pauwela Point on the northeast coast of Maui; and

– A plan by Ocean Power Technologies Inc. to deploy wave energy units off the shore of a U.S. Marine base.

Wave generators use polymer to produce electricity

SRI International is developing wave power generators that use electroactive polymer artificial muscle (EPAM) to produce electricity. This material is essentially a stretchable capacitor.

The EPAM generator is formed from sheets of this stretchable polymer, coated with a conductive electrode. Stretching and contracting the material changes its capacitance. In the ocean, the up and down motion of waves stretches and contracts the EPAM material. This puts energy into the capacitor, which can then be taken off in the form of electricity.

In the summer of 2007, SRI demonstrated use of the EPAM generator on a buoy in the ocean in Tampa Bay, Fla. The generator produced power with wave heights as small as 4 inches. This generator is capable of generating an average output of more than 5 watts under typical ocean wave conditions. SRI is working to develop generators than can produce 25 watts of average output power, enough to supply the needs of lighted navigation buoys.

The company also is working to design, develop, and deploy wave-powered generators that can generate kilowatts of power. These larger generators can be mounted on specially designed buoys or can be incorporated into existing ocean wave power systems that use conventional hydraulic and electromagnetic generator technology, says Roy Kornbluch, senior research engineer with SRI.

SRI is working with Hyper Drive Corporation of Japan to develop this technology.

Minerals Service proceeds with Outer Continental Shelf projects 

The Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) will proceed with management of alternative energy projects, including ocean energy, on the offshore Outer Continental Shelf.

The service will consider individual projects on a case-by-case basis before it completes final programmatic regulations. In January 2008, MMS published a record of decision for a programmatic final environmental impact statement, formally establishing the Alternative Energy and Alternate Use Program (AEAU).

The decision adopted interim policies and best management practices as initial mitigation measures. Those measures are intended to help MMS minimize potential adverse effects of AEAU projects. In addition, MMS can select, on a case-by-case basis, the best management practices to be included as a binding stipulation in any lease, easement, or right-of-way for AEAU activities.

MMS is working on comprehensive program regulations. It planned to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in spring 2008. The agency also said it intends to prepare a separate National Environmental Policy Act analysis to evaluate the environmental effects of the proposed regulatory framework for alternative energy and alternate use activities on the Outer Continental Shelf.

The record of decision is available on the Internet:

Developer testing tidal energy unit in Maine

Ocean Renewable Power Co. (ORPC) is testing a proprietary turbine-generator off the coast of Eastport, Maine.

The prototype uses the company’s Ocean Current Generation (OCGen) technology, which ORPC Maine LLC (a unit of ORPC) plans to deploy in both the Western Passage and Cobscook Bay of Maine. Each turbine-generator unit consists of two cross-flow turbines that drive a permanent magnet generator on a single shaft.

The city of Eastport and ORPC Maine, a unit of ORPC, formalized a partnership in 2006 to advance development of two tidal power projects near Eastport: 18.96-MW Western Passage OCGen Power and 23.7-MW Cobscook Bay OCGen Power.

ORPC launched Energy Tide 1, a barge retrofitted to accommodate the unit and testing assembly, in early December 2007. At that time, the company began preliminary tests to help determine design capabilities, efficiency, and performance of the prototype unit. However, poor weather limited testing to only a few days.

Most of the unit and deployment assembly components have been tested, including basic generator functions, the turbine-generator unit assembly and frame, basic instrumentation, and barge deployment systems. However, the company anticipated taking several more weeks to complete testing of the unit.

Nova Scotia advancing work on Bay of Fundy tidal energy center  

The Nova Scotia government is moving forward on development of an in-stream tidal technology center in the Bay of Fundy.

This work will be funded, in part, through a provincial government grant of C$4.7 million (US$4.64 million) grant. The government made the grant in January 2008 from the province’s EcoTrust for Clean Air and Climate Change Program. Nova Scotia will make another C$300,000 (US$296,000) available for environmental and permitting work. Additionally, EnCana Corp.’s Environmental Innovation Fund is providing a C$3 million (US$2.96 million) zero-interest loan to help fund the facility. Developers also are to contribute.

Three companies are working toward first occupancy of the facility: Clean Current, using a Clean Current Mark III Turbine; Minas Basin Pulp and Power Co. Ltd., using a UEK Hydrokinetic Turbine; and Nova Scotia Power Inc., using an OpenHydro Turbine. Open Hydro Group Ltd. received a contract from Nova Scotia Power in 2007; Clean Current and UEK Corp. issued statements in January 2008 announcing their selection for the program.

Minas Basin Pulp and Power also proposes to construct the facility infrastructure, connecting all tidal devices from the Bay of Fundy to Nova Scotia’s electric grid. The province noted the Bay of Fundy could be the best site for tidal power generation in North America.

In 2007, Sustainable Development Technology Canada awarded a C$4 million (US$3.96 million) grant to Nova Scotia Power to support development of a 1-MW in-stream tidal demonstration project in the Bay of Fundy. Additionally, Maritime Tidal Energy Corp. of Halifax and Marine Current Turbines of Bristol, United Kingdom, propose to deploy a tidal power system in the Bay of Fundy.

Wave energy firms advance Canada ocean project

SyncWave Energy Inc. of Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada, and Marinus Power LLC of Houston, Texas, are advancing work on their SyncWave Power Resonator and SWELS wave energy conversion technologies.

The two companies formed a joint venture, called SyncWave Systems, to develop a wave energy demonstration device for test deployment off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

SyncWave Energy’s B.C. engineering team has developed a frequency-based wave energy conversion technology that treats waves as a variable energy signal. The companies called the technology a breakthrough that promises significantly better efficiency than other wave energy capture devices. They said the SyncWave technology also is expected to be simpler to build, deploy, and maintain.

Marinus focuses on development and financing of ocean renewable energy technologies and projects.

Both companies are to work together to secure additional funding to engineer and build a first-generation demonstration device to be deployed and tested off the west coast of Vancouver Island. The demonstration device is targeted for deployment in late 2009 or 2010.

SyncWave Energy is to license its proprietary technologies to SyncWave Systems and provide its scientific engineering expertise, ocean test permit, and customer and utility relationships. Marinus is to bring ocean engineering, offshore construction, and project management expertise.

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