What if the same swells powering your surf ride every morning off Hawaii’s North Shore were the same ones powering the electricity at your local coffee shop or even your home?
Thanks to a Navy-based pilot project testing wave energy, Hawaii could become home not only to world-class big waves, but one day the country’s first tidal power plant. The project, based out of Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, will be financially backed by the U.S. Department of Energy, which in May, granted a half a million dollars to see the tidal technology developed within a year.
The $500,000 funding will support one project to “deploy and test a device that will convert wave energy to electricity,” at the Department of Navy’s Wave Energy test site off of Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Actually, it’s no surprise the Navy is highly involved with the project. For nearly the past decade, the Navy has supported ocean energy technologies at its Hawaiian base with the aim to provide wave-produced energy to the Marine base by 2014, and supply half its power from renewable sources by 2020.
Sure, waves can lift and power a little surfer across the beach, but could our waves contain enough energy to power our coastal cities?
The Energy Department thinks so. They estimate that over 1,170 terawatt hours (1 terawatt = 1 trillion watts) are generated from both onshore and offshore wave energy just off U.S. northeastern and northwestern coasts, annually. By comparison, the U.S. total electricity consumption is 4,000 terawatt hours of electricity annually.
Interestingly, researchers findings on the best wave energy “hot spots” around the world also seemed to correlate with the top surf spots of the world; including the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa and Australia.
For the next few years while this project is still in beta mode, one thing’s for certain, we’re all chasing the big waves out there. Maybe now there’ll be more than just surfers checking that surf report every morning.
While others do their thing to promote progressive technologies as part of a greener planet, Teva continues to contribute to a better future with A Pair For a Foot program.
—by Sarah McClure