Department of Energy grants $7.4 million funding to develop ocean energy systems

On Thursday, the US Energy Department announced $7.4 million in funding to four companies developing wave and tidal energy systems.  This sort of technology uses objects placed in the ocean to capture energy from wave motion or the ebb-and-flow of tides, converting that energy to electricity.   According to the Energy Department, the grant program is meant to spur innovation of in water power component technologies, designed for manufacturability and built specifically for marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) systems.

The program was announced in January with up to $8 million in funding available.  The funded projects announced today will work in three critical areas:

  • Advanced controls:  Selected projects will design, develop, and validate components capable of monitoring and controlling the interaction of the device with the water resource for increased power production and efficiency.
  • Crosscutting power take-off components:  Selected projects will design, develop, and validate components for the “power take-off” systems of a broad variety of MHK devices, reducing the costs of deployments and increasing efficiency and availability.  A power take-off is the MHK sub-system that includes the hardware needed to convert mechanical motion into electrical power.
  • Innovative structures:  Selected projects will design, develop, and validate advanced materials and structures for increased power production, availability, and greater manufacturability.

Waves, tides, and ocean currents are a largely untapped source for renewable energy production.  The energy driving these movements of ocean water come from gravitational pulls as the moon orbits our planet, as well as the solar energy striking the planet that drives the hydro-logical cycle.  Hence, tapping energy from the ocean is completely renewable and does not deplete any terrestrial resource.

The funds are going to these organizations:

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  • Re Vision Consulting: in collaboration with Ocean Energy USA, Resolute Marine Energy, CalWave, Dresser-Rand, Navigant Consulting, and University of Michigan, will develop an optimal control system that predicts ocean conditions and adjusts device settings accordingly to optimize power production for three different wave energy converter (WEC) devices: (1) the OE buoy developed by Ocean Energy USA, (2) the Surge WEC device developed by Resolute Marine Energy, and (3) the Wave Carpet developed at CalWave (UC Berkeley). Device performance improvements will be validated through wave-tank testing and one final full-scale test.
  • Virginia Tech: in collaboration with Resolute Marine Energy, Energy Harvesting Technology, LLC, THK America, Inc., and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will develop and test a novel mechanical solution for converting from alternating current to direct current power. The technology transforms the back-and-forth wave movement into a single-directional movement to more efficiently capture wave energy. In combination with unique power electronics, the new PTO will improve energy conversion efficiency and the reliability of ocean wave-energy harvesting.
  • Dehlson Associates: in collaboration with Helios Engineering, Wedge Global, Oregon State University, Time-Variable Systems, LLC, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will develop a linear generator capable of supplying a WEC device with power to implement advanced controls. The device’s water power capture can then be optimized by actively controlling the timing between the force and velocity on the WEC device.
  • Pennsylvania State University: in collaboration with Verdant Power, will develop a low-cost, single-piece, three-blade composite turbine with integrated “health management” technology. The integrated health management system will use diagnostic and predictive technologies to evaluate the health of mechanical and electrical systems during operation and warn of component or system faults before failure occurs.

One can learn more about DoE’s water energy program at http://energy.gov/eere/water/water-power-program

The DoE has released the following video to explain wave and ocean energy:

 

 

 

 

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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