Power-generating ocean buoys set to launch in Oregon

Written By: Thatcher Michelsen September 5, 2012 0
Ocean-deployed machines known as PowerBuoys capture the kinetic energy of waves and send the power to nearby electrical grids for usage.
Ocean-deployed machines known as PowerBuoys capture the kinetic energy of waves and send the power to nearby electrical grids for usage.

According to a report published on September 3 by the New York Times, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), a company based in New Jersey that specializes in wave-based electrical generators, may be on the cusp of changing the face of renewable energy.

Their devices, known as PowerBuoys, function by allowing water to push pistons up and down, collecting the friction from the process and converting it into energy. This power is then sent to the nearby grid through an underwater cable. According to recent tests conducted in conjunction with the U.S Navy, the PowerBuoy is capable of producing a continuous amount of 300 to 400 watts.

The Oregon government hopes to tap into the state's wide array of low-impact energy sources, including wave power. Paul Klarin, the liaison from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development for the initiative, called the PowerBuoy project simply one part of a "no one-size-fits-all kind of plan."

"Some are on the seabed on the ocean floor, some are in the water column, some are sitting on the surface, some project up from the surface into the atmosphere, like wind – many different sizes, many different forms, many different footprints," he said.

Hesitations among Oregon's environmentalists remain, such as the fear that this project could become a hindrance for the area's salmon population, which serves as a sort of bedrock staple for many of the state's wildlife populations. To allay these concerns, OPT designed the PowerBuoy system to function without potentially hazardous hydraulic fluids. Additionally, the company built the devices to withstand severe storm surges and, as a redundancy, outfitted each machine with three enormous anchors to keep them in place.

When the power network comes online, it is expected to produce energy for approximately 1,000 homes. Once it is deployed, this initiative could be the start of a revolution in the ways communities provide electricity for themselves.

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