- Title: Floating energy generator converts Hawaii's ocean waves into electricity
- Date: 16th December 2019
- Summary: TURKANA, KENYA (FILE - 2019) (REUTERS) WIND TURBINES PIOLENC, FRANCE (OCTOBER 18, 2019) (REUTERS) PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR PANELS ON WATER AT FLOATING SOLAR ENERGY FARM
- Embargoed: 30th December 2019 14:51
- Keywords: Climate change Hawaii Ireland OE35 buoy Ocean Energy Portland Vigor Industries energy next generation ocean waves renewable energy
- Location: PORTLAND, UNITED STATES / COMPUTER ANIMATION
- City: PORTLAND, UNITED STATES / COMPUTER ANIMATION
- Country: USA
- Topics: Environment
- Reuters ID: LVA00ABAD55JV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Irish company Ocean Energy hopes to prove that Hawaii's ocean waves are not just for surfing but also a key component for the next generation of renewable energy.
Weighing 830 tons, the 'OE35' marine hydrokinetic converter represents the culmination of more than a decade's development by Ocean Energy, and is now a global project supported and part funded by the Irish and American government.
The first full-sized OE35 buoy, measuring 35 metres (115 ft.) in length, has now been deployed for grid-connected testing at the U.S. Navy's Wave Energy Test Facility on the windward side of Hawaii's Oahu Island. Smaller scale models have been tested in Galway Bay, off Ireland's west coast.
Part-submerged in the ocean, at the heart of OE35's energy capturing system is an L-shaped chamber that waves enter, pushing air up the vertical part and through a specially-designed turbine fan.
"It's quite a unique turbine," explained Tony Lewis, Ocean Energy's Chief Technical Officer.
"The air is being blown out of the device and then sucked back in on alternative waves, so you have to have a very clever turbine that spins in the same direction, whether the air is blowing or sucking. And this special designed turbine, the hydro-air, does that exactly."
Ocean Energy believes their technology can withstand the harsh marine environment, though the OE35's test period just off the coast of Oahu will be critical.
"This device, once it goes to Hawaii, it will have a 12-month test period up there. That wave climate in Hawaii is relatively benign, ideal for testing hours, as you want to test a whole lot of different situations," explain CEO John McCarthy.
After its year-long test in Hawaii the OE35 wave energy buoy will return to the coast off Oregon where it was constructed by specialist ship builders Vigor.
The plan is for it to be joined by five other buoys to be manufactured at the same facility, with all the buoys being 'daisy-chained' to produce energy for the U.S. grid.
Ocean Energy estimates that each buoy could reduce CO2 emissions by over 3,6005 tons annually.
Although wave energy technology lags far behind wind and solar, its supporters point to its greater energy production potential and the fact that it's available around the clock and not impacted by prevailing weather conditions.
McCarthy believes wave power generation will be a crucial - along with other renewable energy sources - to cut our dependence on fossil fuels.
"When you look at the targets that solar and wind have out for 2050, the most they'll get between them is somewhere between 45-50%," McCarthy said, adding: "So something else will have to fill the mix. And if this (wave energy generator) comes in to fill 10% or more of that particular market, that's another chunk of what we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels."
The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that the theoretical annual energy potential of waves off both coasts of the United States is 64 trillion kilowatt-hours - equal to more than 60% of the total amount of electricity generated in America in 2018.
(Prouction: Tim Exton, Tanya Lezaic)
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