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Published on August 20th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


U.S. Could Lead in Wave Power, But China Does…For Now

August 20th, 2012 by  

The U.S. has yet to deploy a fully commercial-scale wave power plant, while China is already planning for the installation of its second, third, and fourth wave power plants from SDE, an Israeli company. When they are all completed, SDE will have a total of 12 commercial wave power ventures worldwide including Chile, Mexico, Tanzania, and Kenya. As for the U.S., we might be lagging behind now but that could change pretty soon.

SDE builds three new wave power plants in China


SDE leads in wave power

SDE first came to the attention of CleanTechnica in 2010 when it announced its first wave power plant in China, close on the heels of another deal signed with India.

At the time, SDE claimed that it had more deals in the works and it looks like the company has followed through.

China’s first SDE installation was in Guangdong Province on the South China coast, and the three new ones are being constructed in Guangzhou. The first in this threesome is already completed, the second is nearing completion and the third will get under way soon.

Wave power from Israel

SDE’s system is based on buoys, which bob up and down with the waves. Energy from this motion is transferred to a series of pistons, which pump pressurized oil to a generator that creates electricity.

In addition to harvesting energy from waves, the device also scavenges motion from the ebb and flow of tides.

According to SDE’s press materials, the typical cost of electricity from its wave generators is about 2 cents per kilowatt hour.

U.S. plays catch-up on wave power

Right, so we all know you can’t drive your car with a wave power buoy on it, but the electric vehicle market is poised for skyrocketing growth and the winners will be those with access to low cost, low risk sources of electricity.

Fossil fuels are only one of many potential sources of electricity and over the years they have proven to be high risk sources, with impacts ranging from chronic community malaise related to coal mining operations here at home to death and injury for American troops related to fuel convoys and other military operations overseas.

Given the impact of fossil fuel dependency on military effectiveness, it’s no surprise that the U.S. Navy has been pushing for more wave power along with biofuel and other forms of alternative energy.

The first grid-connected wave power device in the U.S. was installed for a Navy base in Hawaii, and the Navy has been providing funding and test bed support for a number of private sector wave power companies such as Ocean Power Technologies.

Meanwhile, Maine-based Ocean Renewable Power Company is set to begin operating the first fully commercial scale wave power generator in the U.S. some time this fall.

Image: Ocean wave (cropped). Some rights reserved by mikebaird.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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