I’ve got a lead for those of you looking for the next big thing, but unless you act quickly, another hot renewable energy technology is about to be conceded overseas.
Yesterday, I thought viable wave power was still just a step above perpetual motion machines. Today, I read Annette von Jouanne’s article in the December 2006 issue of Mechanical Engineering Magazine. Then I realized it: I didn’t know about wave power because America stinks at it.
Entitled “Harvesting the Waves”, von Jouanne’s piece makes a key point that is obvious, and yet had never occurred to me: “waves may be seasonal, but [they] are more constant – and more predictable – than wind or sunlight.” Despite this advantage, the article pegs wave energy at a technical maturity roughly 15 to 20 years behind wind power. I will wager that wave consistency fosters rapid maturity. Further catalysis will occur against the backdrop of expensive fossil fuel whereas wind’s coming of age toddled along through an era of cheap energy.
It is not just the predicable nature of waves that makes this renewable low-hanging fruit. The world’s wave energy resources coincide with many major coastal populations, meaning electrons can be generated where they are needed. Plus, estimates from the World Energy Council suggest that wave energy could eventually supply 10% of the planet’s electricity needs; that’s 1 to 2 TeraWatts to you and me.
Despite the promise of wave energy, Oregon State University’s O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory and Motor Systems Resource Facility seem to house the only serious federally-funded US-based research program in ocean wave energy extraction. To deepen the pit of despair, a Google search for “wave energy” reveals a host of hits for non-US companies: Wavegen (UK), Wave Dragon (Denmark), and Energetech (Australia). Stop surfing the waves America and start extracting energy from them!