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Published on February 27th, 2009 | by Gavin Newsom

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Wave Energy to Bring Power and Jobs to San Francisco

February 27th, 2009 by  


wave energy

Editors Note: This is a guest post by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. See his last post for us on EV charging stations on Gas 2.0.

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Today, San Francisco took a meaningful step toward turning the promise of renewable ocean energy into reality. We submitted a preliminary permit application to the federal government to develop a wave power project off our coast that we believe can generate between 10 to 30 megawatts of energy, with potential of up to 100 megawatts. When this project is fully operational, upwards of 100 jobs could be created in San Francisco.

Ocean power is a true “game changer” in the area of renewable energy. When wave and tidal power technologies reach commercial scale, they are expected to be able to provide thousands of megawatts of power to our coastal communities, dramatically green our energy portfolios and create thousands of new American jobs. In San Francisco, we’ve been doing our part to spur these technologies by aggressively advancing tidal and wave power pilot projects.  We are 100% committed to this challenge.

Wave power is not a new concept. In 1887, San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro recognized the power of San Francisco’s waves and built a wave catch-basin to harness the ocean’s power. Over the next century wave power development took a backseat to our dependence on oil, with oil platforms built along our coasts to feed our oil addiction.

However more recently, an explosion of research and development of wave power technologies has occurred. The first commercial units are scheduled to go online in Portugal this year (2 MW from three 750 KW Pelamis units). In the U.S. there are a number of studies, but no commercial operations; San Francisco is hoping to change that.

The proposal submitted by the City to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), grows out of a recent wave power study the City completed, with generous support from the Sidney Frank Foundation and others.

The study confirms that wave power is a promising resource off Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Our project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of generating electric power from waves about eight miles off the west coast of San Francisco. The next step in our project will be to select technologies and undertake environmental studies to ensure minimal impact on marine animals, fishing, shipping and recreational uses.

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There are over 50 different types of wave devices currently under development, ranging from “pitching” devices (Pelamis), “overtopping” devices (Wave Dragon), oscillating water columns (OceanLinx) and “heaving” devices (Aquabuoy).  Some of these devices are based on “biomimicry” principles, which imitate natural designs and processes (bioWave, WaveRoller). Others can even provide both wave power and desalination (CETO).  Wave technology is still new, but the possibilities of clean, green energy produced by the ocean is very real, if we invest in the technology. We will look at all of these and others technologies to find what will work best for us in San Francisco’s waters.

As our leaders in Washington examine ways to ramp up the amount of renewable energy produced in the US over the next three years, in San Francisco we hope to demonstrate that the ocean has the potential to provide power for millions of Americans.

Listen to Mayor Newsom’s radio show online or subscribe to his weekly policy discussions on iTunes. Join Mayor Newsom on Facebook. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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About the Author

was the youngest San Francisco mayor in over a century when he was elected at the age of 41. Newsom, the son of William and Tessa Newsom, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship, graduating in 1989 with a B.A. in political science. After only 36 days as mayor, Newsom gained worldwide attention when he granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This bold move set the tone for Newsom’s first term. Under his energetic leadership, the economy grew and jobs were created. The city became a center for biotech and clean tech. He initiated a plan to bring universal health care to all of the city’s uninsured residents. And Newsom aggressively pursued local solutions to global climate change. In 2007, Newsom was re-elected with over 73% of the vote. Since then he has built upon the successes of his first term, launching new environmental initiatives and a comprehensive strategy to transform one of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods into a life sciences, digital media, and clean tech center.



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