Published on July 4th, 2009 | by Tina Casey12
DARPA Joins Blue Energy and World Energy in Race to Harness Ocean Power
July 4th, 2009 by Tina Casey
Is the world ready for another ambitious ocean power program?
Blue Energy Canada Inc. and World Energy Research are moving quickly in that direction. After signing a memorandum of understanding last month, the two companies just announced a formal agreement to build a 200 megawatt, half-billion dollar commercial tidal power project based on Blue Energy’s Davis Tidal Turbine. Meanwhile, DARPA (the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has been quietly working the other end of the scale to develop buoy-sized ocean power generating equipment.
Ocean Power on a Grand Scale
Last year’s disastrous startup of the gigantic Pelamis wave power project in Portugal illustrates how the allure of ocean power is matched by its unpredictability, though as a tidal current project, the World Energy/Blue Energy venture will face a different set of variables than those besetting the Pelamis project. On the other side of the coin are companies like Swell Fuel, which makes small units that can be linked in a network to scale up. In the case of Swell Fuel, the added attraction is built-in safety engineering that enables each unit to fold into a position that can weather extreme tides and stormy seas.
DARPA and Ocean Power
DARPA has its eye on the potential of ocean power and has dipped a cautious toe in the water. Last year, DARPA put out a request for information on small scale ocean-based energy systems that would enable the development of autonomous station keeping buoys. The system would have to use and store energy for long periods of time while surviving open ocean conditions. The range of variables for operability and survivability goes all the way from dead calm to 30-foot waves, and includes varying solar conditions as well.
The future of ocean power may well lie in Pelamis-sized projects, but that still leaves plenty of room for Swell Fuel and other ocean power innovators to get into the act.
Image: Rachel_thecat on flickr.com.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.