The Navy Finds Extra Power In The Waves Beneath Its Ships

The power created by the up-and-down motion of the ocean has usually been written off as a useless power source. But the Navy is using enormous buoys to help it create its own source of renewable energy.

The U.S. Navy, like other federal agencies, is under strict orders: buy half of its renewable energy purchases from new sources. Executive Order 1342 means the military and feds are searching for new sources of clean power.

The U.S. Navy has found it, fittingly, in wave power. Long seen as impractical, advances in materials and engineering have made converting of wave energy into electricity not just practical, but increasingly economical, at the commercial scale. Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), which has been manufacturing power buoys for specialized applications such as Marine bases or demonstration projects, is now poised to become a full-fledged utility off the coast of Oregon.

The U.S.'s first utility-scale, commercial "wave park" is now moving through the final permitting stages. Located 2.5 miles offshore near Reedsport, Oregon, the park will generate about 1.5 megawatts, enough to power more than 320 homes, using 10 massive "PB150s," power buoys. The buoys, 115 feet tall, will float almost entirely under the surface. Only a small yellow buoy is seen from above. As waves roll past, the rise and fall of the buoys drives an internal generator, which sends electricity back to the mainland grid.

The wave park in Oregon, and others like it, can ultimately scale-up to 50 or 100 megawatts. Yet OPT says that’s just the beginning. It’s hard at work on the "PB500," a power buoy that generates three times more energy than its predecessors.

Just as wind turbines appear to be exploding in size — new blades are longer than football fields—the sky (or the sea) may be the limit for the future of wave power.

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  • Keith B. Rosenberg

    I can see the headline now. Nuclear Submarine sinks with all hands after crashing into submerged power station.

  • David

    Like usual when the "Grren Weenies" push a Energy idea the don't tell us the cost... Now I have no problrm with setting up this for testing  to see how it plays out but we have spent BILLIONS of dollars on alternate Energy since the Carter Years (30 years) and not much to show for it....

  • Regenz

    So power for 320 homes at cost of millions...power being 10c kWh right now it's costing one home 11,000 kWh x.1 = $1,100 per year x 320 or $350,000 a year. So a $40 million installation of 10 at $4m apiece would take only 3 x 40 or something less than 120 years to break even. 

  • Regenz

    I say go for it but you first have to agree to have your electric rates rise by 5,000 percent. I'm looking at you, every rube commenting positively here. Sigh, it's no wonder your teachers union supplied education skipped any math literacy. I bet you're still not willing to 5000 percent more of anything despite your math challenges.

  • Jungletrump

    Looks like I misinterpreted the article.  If they are just stationary buoys which require no fuel to operate it is a great idea.  It just seemed logical for me to have onboard generators for ships to help conserve fuel consumption for our military operations, using the same technology concepts discussed in this article.

  • Jungletrump

    Renewable energy is always a great idea.  You won't come up with feasible results until big oil gets out of the way or buys into it.  If I understand it correctly, these generators are attached to the underbelly of ships.  The ships still require massive amounts of fuel to propel through the water.  So this is no different from any other powerplant i.e. trade one resource for another.
    It is a good idea if the ship uses these generators to propel itself on missions.  Once the ship reaches a threshold speed where the generators can fully takeover engine power makes the most sense for these turbines.

  • Poacher1953

    These don't attach to ships.  They float in one place and bob up and down.  What is unsaid in this article are the important questions.  How many bouys does it that to generate 1.5 megawatt?  How much surface area do the bouys need?  How much do they cost and how long is their effective energy generation?  What is the cost per megawatt and when will they pay off the construction costs and become profitable?

  • Poacher1953

     Again this article dose not address many concerns.  What will the effect be on wildlife?  We now know windmills kill birds (including endangered species) and solar panel farms kill tortoises, lizards, and anything else they block from the sun and concentrate heat.  This may be great for the Navy, they don't have to make a profit because they are spending our taxes.  They are now trying bio-fuels  that cost $26 a gallon compared with $4 a gallon regular fuel.  These ideas are great but until they can make a profit and be financially available for poor locations, they will never be effective.  when the poor countries of Africa can get these they will continue to use what is cheap.

  • ReliefAboutdaFuture

    actually makes much sense - if you (actually) read the story, it speaks of imptoved materials - iron/steel & corrosion are so backward thinking !!

  • looneytoonsindville

    You are right, voiceofreason.  Sea water is highly corrosive.  These "power buoys" likely will not last long and will require large investments in maintenance to keep them running.  No matter how hard men have tried, the sea always wins.

  • thoughtrational

    Why is this an awful idea? The majority of the worlds population lives within 25 miles of coastal areas. The energy density of water is about 600 times that of moving air (wind turbines). So what exactly are your objections?