In a move linked to its massive blackout last summer, India is getting a ring of wave power plants along its coastline from the Israeli company SDE. In terms of the global competition for renewable energy leadership, that puts the U.S. way back in the pack. SDE is already building wave power plants in China and several other countries, and Scotland’s wave power industry is coming on strong. Meanwhile, mostly cricket chirps from the most powerful nation on earth….
Lessons from the 2012 India Blackout
The blackout in India last summer was a history-making one, affecting 670 million people or about 9 percent of the world’s population.
Spared were individual companies and villages that had their own off-grid power plants, including a remote village that had its own solar power array. Officials in the state of Jodhpur also credit wind turbines with providing enough energy for hospitals and vital infrastructure, while enabling them to restore power to the region while other parts of India were still many hours away from relief.
Wave Power for India
Until now, Indian companies seeking to shield themselves from grid disruptions have had to rely on building their own fossil fuel power plants. However, India’s rapid industrialization is headed for a three-way collision course with rising oil prices and environmental issues, making wave energy an attractive alternative.
SDE estimates that energy from its wave power plants costs only two cents per kilowatt hour, making it an attractive bottom-line alternative as well as a clean one.
The wave power projects in India will put SDE in partnership with the country’s automobile industry and other companies, along with electric utilities and local governments.
For Indian companies with an eye on global markets, access to low-cost wave power could also provide a significant competitive edge. It’s becoming commonplace for companies to tout their access to clean energy as a selling point for their products and services, and a recent study commissioned by the wind turbine company Vestas suggest that more consumers prefer to buy from companies that use clean energy.
Wave Power in the U.S.A.
To be fair, the U.S. has been playing wave power catchup with some support from the Obama Administration. Though a full-scale commercial wave power project has yet to launch in U.S. waters, the Navy set up the nation’s first ever grid-connected wave power plant to provide energy for a base in Hawaii back in 2010, with the U.S. company Ocean Power Technologies. Also in Oregon, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) at Oregon State University has launched a wave power test facility off the state’s coast.
Ocean Power Technologies is now preparing a new wave power operation for a community on the Oregon coast, and the company Ocean Renewable Power has just started operating a small pilot tidal power project on the coast of Maine.
Meanwhile, the Navy is upgrading its facility to serve as a shared test bed for additional private companies to develop new wave power technology.
Things are just getting started but the U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that wave and tidal power could provide 15 percent of U.S. energy needs by 2030.
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.