Thursday, September 6, 2007

Riding the Waves to Power: Harnessing the Sea’s Energy


Finavera Renewables is not only making waves with its new technology—it’s hoping to ride those waves straight to the bank. Finavera is a Vancouver-based company that hopes to harness ocean waves off the coast of Oregon to produce electricity. They designed something called the AquaBuOY, an enormous steel buoy that will generate electricity from the vertical motion of waves. According to Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post, here is how it works: “The buoy, anchored three to 4.8 kilometers offshore, will convert the waves’ motion into pressurized water using large, reinforced-rubber hose pumps. As the buoy goes up the peak of the wave and down into its trough, it forces a piston in the bottom of the buoy to stretch and contract the hose pumps, pushing water through. This drives a turbine that powers a generator producing electricity, which would be shipped to shore through an undersea transmission line.”

Simple…Well, maybe not so simple…
Operating equipment in the hostile environment of the open ocean can pose challenges. The power of moving water may overwhelm even the highest tech equipment. Eilperin talks of how, amid much fanfare, Verdant Power had placed turbines off New York City’s Roosevelt Island last December with promises to harness the tides of the East River and convert that energy into electricity; within a short time all six turbines were shut down for repair and redesign.

Tapping the ocean’s power is just one of the many alternative energy sources being investigated by smart entrepreneurs on the heels of imposed government policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil. Solar and wind power make up the best known and most researched methods, worldwide. Other, more obscure power generators include turning algae into diesel fuel, and getting energy from waste (e.g., leaves, tires and “car fluff”). There’s also geothermal and tidal energy. The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of geothermal electricity, with over 200 plants generating over 3,000 megawatts of energy. It’s an exciting time of mind-power to design our future of newly emerging technology.

To my way of thinking, though, while all this technology is good (I recognize that technology always precedes mainstream thought) the real excitement happens when it is actively embraced by "Joe & Joesephine Public" (I watched it happen with the recycling phenomenon, for which I lobbeyed since I was in high school and is now very much a part of everyday living in Canada). For instance, how many people do you know--anyone (including yourself)--who drives a hybrid car or uses some kind of alternative energy source on their property?...Hmmm...I know of one (and it isn't me...yet).





Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.

6 comments:

Jean-Luc Picard said...

That sort of good thing gets so little publicity.

Rudi said...

I don't know anyone who uses alternative energy either. I think quite some peopl want to change but it's the costs thats stopping them. I had never heard of the wave thing before. Sounds like a good idea.
Thanks for sharing :-)

Jay Cam said...

wow i never heard of that before

Jay Cam said...

Care to trade links? My site is http://jaysmoney.blogspot.com

If would like to trade, post my link, then comment or email me and I will post yours on my site as a permanent link. Send what you want to your link to be called and your link please.
I would appreciate the linkage, thanks!

zephyr01 said...

Wow Nina Excellent Post!!

sfgirl said...

Thanks, Zephyr! It is kinda cool, isn't it? We'll see how well it works...