Another, relatively new energy source may show surprisingly rapid results. An inter-governmental report has just been released in the U.S. showing that wave energy could become economically feasible in the very near future.
The study was carried out by Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), in collaboration with the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and energy agencies and utilities from six states. EPRI was established in 1973 as an independent, non-profit center for public interest energy and environmental research. Their members represent over 90 percent of the electricity generated in the United States.
Conceptual designs for 300,000 MWh plants (nominally 120 MW plants operating at 40 percent capacity factor) were performed for five sites: Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii; Old Orchard Beach, Cumberland County, Maine; WellFleet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Gardiner, Douglas County, Oregon; and Ocean Beach, San Francisco County, California.
The study determined that wave energy conversion may be economically feasible within the territorial waters of the United States as soon as investments are made to enable wave technology to reach a cumulative production volume of 10,000 - 20,000 MW. (Land-based wind turbines, in comparison, generate 40,000 MW.)
"Wave energy will first become commercially competitive with land-based wind technology at a cumulative production volume of 10,000 or fewer MW in Hawaii and northern California, about 20,000 MW in Oregon and about 40,000 MW in Massachusetts," said Roger Bedard, ocean energy project manager. "Maine is the only state in the five site study whose wave climate is such that wave energy may never be able to economically compete with a good wind energy site."
With proper siting wave energy is believed to be one of the most environmentally benign ways to generate electricity. Second, offshore wave energy may face much less local objection since wave energy conversion devices often have a very low profile and are located far enough away from the shore that they are generally not visible. Third, wave energy is more predictable and consistent than solar and wind energy, offering a better possibility of being dispatchable by an electrical grid systems operator and possibly earning a capacity payment. And it it may be one of the lowest cost renewable energy sources is its high power density.
Wave energy is sounding like a very promising new energy source.