As Long As The Waves Roll In
Columbia Power Technologies Wins DoE Grant to Develop Wave Power
H. G. Wells wrote in the finale of the 1936 film Things to Come about the promise that there was no limit to discovery. His scientist character said humanity would start with “this little planet, with its winds and ways” before moving out into the Universe. Wells understood that natural power sources like wind, sunlight, tides, and ocean waves were a source of reliable energy that could sustain our civilization far longer and far better than fossil carbon ever could. Today, the Corvallis product development team of Virginia-based Columbia Power Technologies works to bring us closer to that future.
The Federal Department of Energy has recently handed out $25 million in grants to several companies to help develop energy sources to make the electrical grid more flexible and resilient. The role which wave power could play in that was recognized by the DoE in a seven-figure grant to C-Power to help them manufacture a demonstration run of their new H3 StingRAY generator, designed by a nine-member team headed by Oregon State University graduate Pukha Lenee-Bluhm.
The basic principle behind wave power is the same as wind or hydroelectric power – use the motion of a natural phenomenon to generate mechanical power, then use that to generate electricity. C-Power builds wave power generators small enough to run oceanographic sensor platforms and large enough to generate megawatts of electricity to power cities. The two-story H3 StingRAY is their largest design yet, but tests at the DoE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and elsewhere indicate it will have a similar low environmental impact to that of their smaller designs.
Photovoltaic solar panels normally generate about 100 watts per square meter of swept area, while wind produces 1,000 watts. A wave energy generator can produce a whopping 10,000 watts per square meter. The smaller footprint makes it easier to reduce the environmental impact of a wave power generator. Since more than half of the world’s population lives near the seacoast, wave power also reduces the amount of power lines which need to be strung from the generation site to the places where power is consumed.
Soon, you may want to visit an Oregon beach, look out to sea … and not notice the H3 StingRAY far out on the water, quietly generating electricity and sending it to shore via buried cables. And chances are, you won’t miss the coal-fired power plants they are replacing.
by John M. Burt
Picture Credits: Columbia Power Technologies, Pukha Lenee-Bluhm
People mentioned, Pukha Lenee-Blum, Engineer