Ocean Energy Takes Center Stage In Nat Geo “Breakthrough” Series

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Ocean energy has been getting a bit of the old brush-off at the COP21 Paris climate talks, where global leaders have been looking mainly to solar, wind, nuclear energy, and natural gas for a way out of the Earth’s carbon overload. However, we’re thinking that ocean energy could play a larger role than expected, particularly when it comes to resolving the carbon-related problem of water scarcity.

ocean energy Australia

Ocean Energy, Meet Hollywood

While ocean energy has been relegated to wallflower status at COP21, somewhat ironically it will get the full blown Hollywood treatment just a couple of days after the talks finish, as part of the National Geographic Channel’s Breakthrough series on next-generation technology.

The Breakthrough series finale, titled Water Apocalypse, is set to unspool this Sunday, December 13 at 9 pm EST and it features the ocean energy company Carnegie Wave Energy.

If Carnegie Wave Energy rings a bell, you’re probably thinking of the Perth Wave Energy project in Australia covered by CleanTechnica last March. Consisting of three of the company’s CETO wave energy generators integrated with three six-ton underwater buoys that sway with the motion of subsurface swells, apparently this is the first wave energy project to be composed of multiple units connected in an array.

Actually, only two of the three units were up and running last March. The third was yet to be installed so just imagine our excitement when we screened an advance copy of Water Apocalypse (thanks, Rupert!) and Carnegie’s Perth project showed up with a live sequence of the third and final buoy being steered into place.

With that in mind, take a look at the nice schematic below:

ocean energy infographic

That’s a nice schematic, right? But it doesn’t quite capture the drama of the whole thing. For that you can go to Water Apocalypse, in which thanks to the magic of filmmaking (the episode was directed by the amazing Angela Bassett) you can wake up before sunrise in time to catch a boat out to the site at daybreak, meet the crew and the engineers, put on a wetsuit, and prepare to go to the rescue if things go awry during the final nerve-wracking moments as the massive buoy drops slowly toward its target.

We’re not giving anything away so if you want to know what happens next, go see the show. You’ll also get up-close looks at a solar powered desalination/water purification plant for a California farm and a delicate dew-collecting bamboo tower for an Ethiopian village, among other innovative projects.

Getting back around to COP21, the main point of Water Apocalypse is that in order to provide for the potable water needs of the Earth’s burgeoning population, we need to get cracking on new ways to re-use and purify non-potable water. All that takes a lot of energy, and renewables offer a way to get the job done without increasing carbon emissions.

The Other Breakthrough

That brings us back around to the role of nuclear energy in global carbon management.

Last week, billionaire Bill Gates grabbed the COP21 spotlight with a high profile launch for his new A-list tech investor group, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (no relation to the Breakthrough series as far as we know), which appears to be focused partly on accelerating Gates’s global nuclear energy interests.

That kind of centralized approach to energy generation only tells part of the story, though. As portrayed in Water Apocalypse, small scale on-site renewable energy generation and local community solutions also have a major role to play. The bamboo dew collector, for example, was constructed with local residents using local materials, with the aim of teaching other nearby communities to build their own water supply.

By the way, if you look at the Gates/Breakthrough investor list, Elon Musk of Tesla Motors is conspicuously absent. We’re guessing that’s because Musk’s SpaceX venture is one of the forces behind another A-List tech investor group, the Founders Fund, which is backing another nuclear startup called Transatomic.

Ocean Energy And The US Navy

Speaking of on-site energy generation, the Perth ocean energy project featured in Water Apocalypse is aimed specifically at providing electricity and zero-emission water desalination for HMAS Stirling, the largest naval base in Australia.

Over here in the US, the Navy and Marine Corps have also been pushing for ocean energy, most notably with a recent upgrade and expansion of a wave energy test site at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, which became home to the nation’s first grid-connected wave energy system back in 2010.

In 2012 the Navy ramped up its interest in the whole gamut of ocean energy potential with a two-day conference that explored wave energy along with thermal energy conversion systems, tidal and current-based systems, and ocean compressed air energy storage. The Navy also lumps offshore wind energy into its wish list of ocean energy resources, so stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter and Google.

Image credits (both): via Carnegie Wave Energy.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3152 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey

15 thoughts on “Ocean Energy Takes Center Stage In Nat Geo “Breakthrough” Series

  • I wish them well but the world needs technologies ready for deployment now. One indicator of market readiness are financial metrics, such as $/MWh, or GW installed. This article lacked such substance. Maybe some day – in the meantime….

    • I agree. Article is of little use without financial metrics of any kind.

      About CETO 6 I found – “… the energy it produces is sold at an undisclosed price to a military base”
      (I’ve tried including web links to sources here before but then my comments are deleted.)

      CETO 5 does 720 kW at A$32M. At 20 years, assuming waves all the time, we get 126,000,000 kWh and A$ to .72 US$ for a cost of $23M US gives for $0.18/kWh exclusive of maintenance (and fuel costs!).

      Granted, this is also pretty useless, but there you go.

  • What are the chances the Carnegie wave energy design – the best in class, with a realistic shot (no more) at going commercial in the next five years – will attract any cash from Gates and Zuckerberg? No, it lacks the drama and fantasy they are looking for.

    • Like Antonio responded I am taken by
      surprise that a stay at home mom able to make $5849 in a few weeks on the
      internet. have a peek at this website on my profIle



    • Far from being the best in class. THERE are fully commercial wave energy systems in production alas in Europe and sadly requiring caverns directly connected to coast hit by big swells, so even though the energy is cheap the scaling is impossible for lack of right conditions. Several other ideas will work but it is simply a question of missing the window of opportunity. The general problem for wave energy is that the energy scales with a factor 11 whenever you increase the height of the wave and you also face freak waves that can destruct everything in just one blow. The presently best wave energy project is http://www.floatingpowerplant.com/ and they stand a real chance because they are a hybrid with wind power. The wave energy component makes the whole power plant more stabile for less materials expenditure and affords easy access for service personel while also contributing some energy production.

  • To be able to get us, humans, off our FF addiction, we need to use all forms off RE, solar. wind, hydro, wave, tidal, geothermal and biomass and energy efficiency.
    Yes I am including energy efficiency, because without that we will not get there or much, much slower.

    • National Geo and Wall Street Journal are both useless now. Rupert is the kiss of death when it comes to journalism. And he is arguably the worst person in the world right now as far as the damage done to our species.

      • I won’t forgive Murdoch for his role in promoting the Iraq War. In Sydney in early 2003, 200,000 people marched against Australian involvement. Surveys showed 65% opposition.

        Simultaneously 70 regional Murdoch newspapers were propagandising that we had to go. Totally failed to draw a distinction between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

        Prime Minister John Howard told a bunch of lies (Saddam had a people grinding machine – Weapons of Mass Destruction etc) and just managed to get it across the line – could not have done it without Rupert.

        That conflict gave birth to ISIS.

        At the march I saw a placard “No Blood for Oil” – at the time I thought it was off the mark. Only later realised it was written by somebody who knew more than I.

  • I’ll be sure to watch this next Breakthrough energy episode but the first one was a disaster of Fox propaganda seeming to emanate from a parallel universe in which energy efficiency, electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar PV, peak demand coal, and climate change do not exist.

    Concentrated solar was given a token slot but only as some quaint mechano set that may or may not provide us with 24/7, 5x current cost energy at some distant point in the future when we run out of coal.

    So sad to see National Geographic brought so low.

    • It would be nice there was an actually TV show that showed what is already working. Most people are unaware.
      The real “Breakthrough” in energy is using what we already have.

    • National Geographic channel has been owned by Rupert Murdoch for years, whereas he only recently bought the magazine. So of course NatGeo channel features these future energy programs that implicitly trick people into thinking we have to stick with fossil fuel while we wait for these cool future things to arrive. It’s subtle propaganda for the slightly-more-intelligent who don’t buy Fox’s more-obvious lies. All part of the wonderful Murdoch machine.

  • Unfortunately, the Bill Gates and billionaire pals “Breakthrough” group DOES have pushing nuclear power as their goal. :>(

    A Big Fat Radioactive Lie – Posted on Dec 5, 2015 By Emily Schwartz Greco

    As Emily said in he article, “A total of four new nuclear reactors in Georgia and South Carolina are at least three years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. That bodes badly for the save-our-nukes billionaire class (sorry, guys ) because those power stations were supposed to be models for ramping up nuclear energy quickly without cost overruns.

    I wonder what they’ll choose as their next losing battle.”

    These centralized power greedballs like (i.e. Bill Gates et al) are one trick profit over planet ponies.

  • Good news to all people to know something towards the new Technology such as wave energy that can be Useful to the world for assigning positive purpose..

    Nam from Bizbilla B2B portal

  • Perhaps it’s time to catch up with the DoE wave energy competition?

Comments are closed.