Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth United States Technology

US Uncorks $16M For 17 Projects To Capture Wave Energy 132

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-and-tide dept.
coondoggie writes "The US Energy Department this week said it would spend $16 million for seventeen projects to help research and develop energy generating systems from waves, tides and currents. The energy agency says the US could generate up to 1,400 terawatt hours of potential power per year. One terawatt-hour of electricity is enough to power 85,000 homes, according to the agency."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Uncorks $16M For 17 Projects To Capture Wave Energy

Comments Filter:
  • And so on and so forth...
    • by slick7 (1703596)

      And so on and so forth...

      But can it be patented since it is essentially a perpetual motion device that every patent office official knows is impossible?

      • It's not perpetual.

        Wave energy stems from wind energy which stems from uneven heating of the earth by solar radiation as it rotates. It'll last as long as the sun does. No sun, no wind, no waves.

        It actually won't last that long, as the sun will boil the oceans away some time before it burns out.

        • by slick7 (1703596)
          For all intents and purposes, in other words, perpetual.
        • It actually won't last that long, as the sun will boil the oceans away some time before it burns out.

          So, 1 billion years (give or take) is not that long?
          Wow this is the first time I talk to an immortal being! Care to share some stories from the formation of our galaxy?

          • If you claim your power source is truly perpetual, you get laughed at by scientists - for such a device to work would require throwing out some laws of science which have so far withstood every effort to violate them, and a lot of effort has been made.

            If you claim your power source is merely of very long by human standards but still finite duration, then you can be taken seriously.

  • Less than $1m each? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <.ten.3dlrow. .ta. .ojom.> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @02:04PM (#44731819) Homepage

    Doesn't seem like a lot of money for tidal power. Scotland is already way ahead and invests more than that.

    Still, better than nothing.

    • by Yew2 (1560829)
      119m homes? Yea, Id throw every penny at it but maybe since its "research" we are paying salaries and office space (you know that chargeback/funny money stuff they do in companies?) and not much capex. wonder if the fossil fuel industry is gonna like it - or if this is a smear mission...
    • by Joce640k (829181) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @03:24PM (#44732261) Homepage

      Doesn't seem like a lot of money for tidal power.

      Trillions for wars/spying on the public. Billions for waging a "war on drugs" and the militarization of police forces. $16 million for energy research, something that would fix the economy and kick-start all sorts of amazing technologies.

      • by slick7 (1703596)

        Doesn't seem like a lot of money for tidal power.

        Trillions for wars/spying on the public. Billions for waging a "war on drugs" and the militarization of police forces. $16 million for energy research, something that would fix the economy and kick-start all sorts of amazing technologies.

        Don't forget zero money for zero energy.

    • by supernova87a (532540) <(kepler1) (at) (hotmail.com)> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @04:19PM (#44732595)
      It's a good thing that we fund more alternative energy development projects, especially given the absolute crap kinds of things that we as a country are throwing our tax dollars into recently. However, it is important to be upfront that wave power has among the worst cost effectiveness of any of the alternative energy technologies, i.e. solar, wind, geothermal, etc.

      If you look at the LCOE (levelized cost of energy, basically the evened-out cost per energy taking into account installation, operation, transportation, etc), wave energy is an order of magnitude bad.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#Analysis_from_different_sources [wikipedia.org]

      That being said, of course any technology needs research to help to bring it down in cost and become a reasonable option. But the current cost also just reflects that there is a portion of cost that cannot be easily reduced, because of the inevitable difficulty of the marine environment, generating power there (maintaining these contraptions), and getting the power to land.
      • And just to follow on -- at a certain point where the technology has gone as far as it can, and still costs this much, you are better off putting those research dollars into other technologies or removing barriers to the ones that are at least affordable in the commercialization stage.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        It may be bad, but it has two things going for it.

        Firstly it's still fairly new and there are big improvements and cost savings to be made as the technology matures. It can often be combined with other stuff we need to build to deal with climate change anyway, further reducing cost.

        Secondly it is mostly invisible. You still get NIMOs (Not In My Ocean) but basically we have masses of unused area near the surface of the sea and on the sea floor that can be turned over to tidal/wave power and no-one has to liv

    • Doesn't seem like a lot of money for tidal power. Scotland is already way ahead and invests more than that.

      Still, better than nothing.

      Exactly what I was thinking. Seems like there would be a much better chance for success if the 16M went to a single project.

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      Scotland is way ahead and therefore invests more than that? Which is the cause, and which the effect?

      Better yet, why doesn't the DOE just ask Scotland what it's up to? Sounds like a stupid waste of money.

      Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, will quantify the distribution, behavioral response, and general patterns of fish movement around an operating tidal energy turbine. The research team will conduct an analysis of individual fish movements using previously unanalyzed sonar data collec

    • by vandamme (1893204)

      That's a drop in the bucket. I hate the overuse of the word "literally", so I won't.

  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @02:05PM (#44731825) Journal
    With $16M spread across 17 projects, it's no wonder that STEM jobs are underpaid. Then again, with all the billions being wasted on spying (on US citizens as well as foreigners), it no wonder there is so little left for projects which might actually benefit mankind.
    • by icebike (68054)

      I was about the say the same thing.
      This is harebrained scheming money, not something that can deliver even a back-of-the-envelope design money.

      Still, you can't say STEM jobs would be underpaid, sinc this is something you would take on with, maybe 3 to 5 guys from different backgrounds sitting around and bullshitting up a system in three to six months. Just under a 200K for half a years work.

      For this kind of money, nobody expects it to actually work, or even have complete plans.

      • One of two outcomes here:

        1. Money is given in phases for each set of completed research goals.

        Or

        2. It's a scheme to nickle and dime the tax payer with the never ending promise of "we're so close, we just need some more funding" all while on the 10th round of funding already.

        • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @03:44PM (#44732395) Journal

          2. It's a scheme to nickle and dime the tax payer with the never ending promise of "we're so close, we just need some more funding" all while on the 10th round of funding already.

          It does sound like a nickel and dime job, except for the lack of a nickel or dime: they're barely willing to spend a cent on it.

          Ever get involved with work for Uncle Sam? The paperwork is appalling, starting with all the regulatory compliance issues (as indicated in mveloso's post below). The entire investment would be absorbed by bullshit overhead (project management, budget oversight, regulatory oversight, etc.) before a single STEM worker could get hired to actually do any of the work.

        • by slick7 (1703596)

          1. Money is given in phases for each set of completed research goals.

          Would that be in quarter moon phases?

    • Then again, with all the billions being wasted on spying (on US citizens as well as foreigners) [...]

      Uh, where do you think we figured out how capture wave energy? And with the new "First to File" patent system, we can offer patent it in the US and make millions!

  • Failed technology (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @02:24PM (#44731917) Homepage

    Wave power has been talked up for years. No project is beyond the prototype stage, even the one in Scotland, and none of them are profitable. It's just not a very good idea.

    Anything with moving parts at the ocean surface is going to be a maintenance headache. "Remember that the free surface is neither ocean nor air and that man cannot walk upon it nor will equipments remain stable in its presence. So design your equipments that they tarry not long and that they need neither servicing nor repair at this unseemly interface." - MIT/U.S. Navy ocean engineering expert. Most wave power schemes involve many big mechanical devices at the ocean surface. Fully submerged equipment or windmills above the ocean work better.

    Tidal power is only feasible at a few locations worldwide. I read a study once that found ten potential sites in the world. The ideal site for maximum power output is the Bay of Fundy, but it's a long way from potential loads. Also, the way to get the most power out is to build a dam and hydroelectric plant, which totally changes the ecology in the area.

    • "Remember that the free surface is neither ocean nor air and that man cannot walk upon it nor will equipments remain stable in its presence. So design your equipments that they tarry not long and that they need neither servicing nor repair at this unseemly interface." - MIT/U.S. Navy ocean engineering expert.

      Are you sure that wasn't said by a wizard?

      • "Remember that the free surface is neither ocean nor air and that man cannot walk upon it nor will equipments remain stable in its presence. So design your equipments that they tarry not long and that they need neither servicing nor repair at this unseemly interface." - MIT/U.S. Navy ocean engineering expert.

        Are you sure that wasn't said by a wizard?

        In the US, it seems like most people can't tell the difference between Engineers, Scientists, and Wizards. So as far as most people are concerned, he might as well be.

      • by Animats (122034)

        Are you sure that wasn't said by a wizard?

        John Craven. [wikipedia.org] author of Ocean Engineering Systems, MIT Press. Chief Scientist US Navy Special Projects Office, project manager on Polaris submarine program, SEALAB, Marine Affairs Coordinator for Hawaii, Dean of marine programs at U. Hawaii, etc. Yes, a wizard.

    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

      No project is beyond the prototype stage, even the one in Scotland, and none of them are profitable. It's just not a very good idea.

      You expect a prototype to be more effective than technologies that have had a century of development supporting them, not giving wave technology much of a chance are you.

      Wind, Solar, Wave, Geothermal, Tidal, Hydro etc will be around for billions of years, we might as well invest in those because coal, oil and gas won't be around for long relatively speaking.

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      tech has improved since that quote from, as far as I can tell, the mid 60's. care to go for another?

    • Wave power has been talked up for years. No project is beyond the prototype stage, even the one in Scotland, and none of them are profitable. It's just not a very good idea.
      This is utter nonsense.
      Wave power works everywhere where there are waves (unlike to tidal power).

      Tidal power is only feasible at a few locations worldwide. As mentioned above, wave power != tidal power.

  • by mveloso (325617) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @02:29PM (#44731937)

    Get all the money you want, but it's regulatory compliance that's the problem, not the money - at least if this company's experience is any guide.

    "Last September, with great fanfare, Ocean Power Technologies began construction on America's first wave-powered utility. Holding the first - and only - wave energy permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, OPT had planned to deploy a test buoy off the coast of Reedsport by spring.

    But a year after the permit, regulatory and technical difficulties have all but halted the project. Federal regulators notified the company earlier this year it had violated the license after failing to file a variety of plans and assessments."

    http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2013/08/oregon_wave_energy_stalls_off.html [oregonlive.com]

    One government hand giveth, other hands taketh away.

    • by slick7 (1703596)
      They de-regulated the banks and look what happeded, the same with airlines and oil. They also de-coupled precious metals from the currency. Jobs now go overseas, families go out on the street, and our youth go overseas to fight and die for company profits. Whom do YOU blame?
    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      Ocean Power Technologies, Inc., in Pennington, New Jersey, will work on developing the float and spar â" or cylindrical body â" components of their PowerBuoy wave energy converter. These two components account for 50 percent of the deviceâ(TM)s mass, so improving materials, manufacturability, and durability of the float and spar could reduce the cost of energy and significantly improve the deviceâ(TM)s powerâtoâweight ratio. This work will make the PowerBuoy more reliable and m

  • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @02:30PM (#44731953) Journal
    Only 60,000 times smaller than amount spent on military. I wonder if the US citizens will ever revolt?
  • Power vs. energy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @02:48PM (#44732041)

    Is it really asking so much for a three-sentence summary to address "power" and "energy" correctly and consistently?

    Any time someone talks about a power facility in terms of "terawatt-hours per year", they're either confused themselves, or they're trying to confuse you. (Or both.) If they're talking about "terawatt-hours of power", they're the ones who are confused.

    • Re:Power vs. energy (Score:4, Informative)

      by somepunk (720296) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @03:18PM (#44732227) Homepage

      There's nothing funny about terawatt-hours per year as a measure of power. It's the average power generated over a year, since tidal power isn't uniform. It's the next sentence mixing up power and evergy that's messed up.

    • Re:Power vs. energy (Score:5, Informative)

      by Solandri (704621) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @03:29PM (#44732295)

      Any time someone talks about a power facility in terms of "terawatt-hours per year", they're either confused themselves, or they're trying to confuse you. (Or both.) If they're talking about "terawatt-hours of power", they're the ones who are confused.

      No they're not confused, both terms refer to different things.

      Terawatts (or more frequently, megawatts) refers to the so-called nameplate capacity - the peak generating capacity of the plant.

      Terawatt-hours per year refers to the actual energy generated over the course of a year.

      Basically, TWh per year is (nameplate capacity)*(capacity factor). Capacity factor being the fraction of the nameplate capacity that the plant actually produces on average. Unfortunately, most people don't know the capacity factors for the different technologies off the top of their head (nuclear is around 0.9, coal/oil around 0.6, hydro about 0.4-0.5, offshore wind about 0.3-0.4, onshore wind bout 0.2-0.25, and solar about 0.15).

      Dunno what the capacity factor is for wave generation, but in terms of assessing the real capability of a power plant, TWh per year is the more useful figure since it's directly comparable between different technologies (and against power consumption). Nameplate capacity is (ab)used by solar and wind proponents to exaggerate how much those systems actually generate. If you installed 6 kW worth of solar panels in your home, I'm sorry but it doesn't actually generate 6 kW. That's how much it'll generate on a sunny day at noon if the sun happens to be angled perfectly with the panels. On average (after you factor in night, clouds, angle of the sun, etc) it'll generate 1.1 kW if you're in the desert southwest U.S., 870 watts for most of the rest of the country.

      • by bsolar (1176767)

        The capacity factor can only partially assess the real capability because it also depends on the power plants usage strategy. Some types of power plants are not very good in load following and are typically operated at maximum output almost continuously (like most nuclear power plants). Other types are better at load following and their output gets reduced to follow demand even if they could theoretically output more.

        • Nuclear plants can be used in a load following mode, but given that they have about the lowest marginal cost per kwh produced*, it makes no sense for them to NOT produce power when they can. Coal is more expensive, but if you really want to you can reach 90% capacity factor with it as well; my base has a coal powered cogeneration plant(electricity + steam heat) that can run all winter long, but in the summer it runs at less than half power, allowing lots of maintenance, but it never really fully shuts off.

      • Most people don't know "capacity factor" out of their head because they are an artificial invention of american lobbies.

        A nuclear plant has no capacity factor of 0.9, you can as well run it at 100%. Why power companies don't do that is left as an exercise for the reader.

        Coal has no capacity factor of 0.6 ... that is the most ridiculous ever seen. Most coal plants run at the highest cap they can.

        The claim about hydro is the most ridiculous. You run a hydro plant to adjust to load demand. So the power it gen

    • Any time someone talks about a power facility in terms of "terawatt-hours per year", they're either confused themselves, or they're trying to confuse you.

      Actually, that specific bit makes complete sense. It's not exactly SI, but other than that, there is nothing wrong with it.
      Power plants differ in how much useful energy they can generate at different times, so stating the (approximate) absolute amount of generated useful energy over a meaningful period of time is informative. The alternative would be to quote an average power output, which contains the same information.

      An analogy that people can relate to:
      watthour = egg
      watt = chicken
      power (verb) = feed
      power

      • Yes, terawatt-hours per year is a valid way to state average power. It's obfuscatory, though, because most people can't do a quick mental conversion based on the number of hours in a year. If the article had stated that one TWh is enough to supply 85,000 homes for a year, it would have been a coherent and perhaps useful statement -- but why not just carry out the rest of the calculation (1400 * 85000), and say that this has the potential to power almost 12 million homes?

        Some quick Googling turns up US avera

        • Yes, terawatt-hours per year is a valid way to state average power. It's obfuscatory, though, because most people can't do a quick mental conversion based on the number of hours in a year.

          No, that doesn't matter at all as the argument goes both ways, i.e.: if average power consumption is 1W, how many Wh is that in a year?
          It just depends on what you are comparing with, and as it happens, for energy consumption/production on societal scales, Wh is apparently the convention:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumption [wikipedia.org]

          If the article had stated that one TWh is enough to supply 85,000 homes for a year, it would have been a coherent and perhaps useful statement -- but why not just carry out the rest of the calculation (1400 * 85000), and say that this has the potential to power almost 12 million homes?

          For that matter, why not 1.4 petawatthour and 85 million homes? The conversion would have been even more natural and less error-prone ;-), as pretty much everyone should

  • Is it just me, or is "watt-hours per year" an unnecessarily complicated unit of measurement? I know it's commonplace, but there are just too many time units going back and forth. A watt is a joule per second, so a watt-hour per year is a (joule per second)-hour per year.

    A watt-hour is 3600 joules, and 1400 terawatt-hours per year (aka 1.4 petawatt-hours per year) comes out to be just under 160 billion joules per second, aka 160 gigawatts. It seems like the unit (gigawatts) is already there, so why invent
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That means almost 12 KW per home.

    I wonder if the US Energy Department is aware of the fact that in most of Europe each home gets between 3 and 5 KW. Even at 6 KW (which should be more than enough for the vast majority of homes), that would double the figure, up to 170,000 homes.

    Cutting energy use should be targeted, along with new, renewable energy sources...

    • by Bengie (1121981)
      But once you include transmission losses!.... I don't know, just throwing that possibility into the mix.
    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Because when Europeans find out they can get their hands on twice as much power, they'll all move over here and we'll need the capacity.
    • Gaah.

      One terawatt-HOUR of energy per YEAR equals 11.4 megawatts of power. 11.4 megawatts per nothing, because hours and years are the same dimension, and they cancel.

      If you generate 11.4 megawatts of power steadily for a year, you produce one terawatt-hour of energy.

      If you divide 11.4 megawatts of power among 85,000 homes, each home gets 1342 watts of power. Over the course of a year, each home gets 11.8 megawatt-hours of energy.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @03:21PM (#44732239) Journal
    We need money in various areas, but 2 biggies that are being missed are geo-thermal along with thorium fission. I would love to see us allocate 1B for each.
  • A watt is a measurement of rate of flow.

    A watt-hour is a volume of energy, based rate of flow for a give period of time. 3.6 petawatt-seconds is the same amount of energy as 1 terawatt hour.

    When referring to how many homes you can power, leave the hour part off. Its 1 terawatt of flow can power 85k homes. If you power them for 1 hour, than its 1 terawatt-hour, but if you do it for two hours, than it takes 2 terawatt-hours to do it.

    Example, 1 gigawatt-hour can power those same 85k homes as well ... but no

  • by mark_reh (2015546) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @03:49PM (#44732425) Journal

    Why say 1400 terawatts, then explain that 1 terawatt is sufficient to power 85,000 homes when you could just as easily say that it generates "1400 terawatts, enough to power 119,000,000 homes"?

  • We spend almost 4 orders of magnitude more on subsidizing the digging of stuff out of the earth, so we can burn it. On subsidizing the most profitable corporations in the history of mankind. Hurray us.

  • Why not just capture the thermal energy and methane gas from the steaming heaps of horse manure radiating from Washington D.C.?

  • 1TWh is a unit of energy, not a unit of power. One TWh or electricity is about enough to power 85000 homes FOR A YEAR. That's a completely fucked up way to state things.

    1400 TWh per year equals 159.8 GW. US annual electricity production is about 4000 TWh/year.
    average home power consumption is about (http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3) 11280 kWh/year,
    so 1400TWh/year divided by 11280 kWh/year/home equals about 124 million homes.

    That is the relevant figure, if you believe it. Personally

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      That's a completely fucked up way to state things.

      The kicker is that no 'average' home consumes power evenly, nor does any power plant produce it perfectly evenly. So it's all a series of averages.

      so 1400TWh/year divided by 11280 kWh/year/home equals about 124 million homes.

      and that works out to 1 TWh/year equals 88.6k homes per TWh, which seems reasonable based on where you get your average use data and how you average/round.

      Of course, I wonder where you got 1.4k TWh from 4k TWh.

      BTW, on average home power consumption - you can divide the USA into regions; the northeast matches Europe(more or less), the South uses enough juice to d

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        That's a completely fucked up way to state things.

        The kicker is that no 'average' home consumes power evenly, nor does any power plant produce it perfectly evenly. So it's all a series of averages.

        so 1400TWh/year divided by 11280 kWh/year/home equals about 124 million homes.

        and that works out to 1 TWh/year equals 88.6k homes per TWh, which seems reasonable based on where you get your average use data and how you average/round.

        Of course, I wonder where you got 1.4k TWh from 4k TWh.

        BTW, on average home power consumption - you can divide the USA into regions; the northeast matches Europe(more or less), the South uses enough juice to drag up the average. The NW tends to use more power as well because electricity is so cheap there huge proportions heat everything via electric.

        I didn't get it from 1.4TWh. I got it from here: http://www.eia.gov/electricity/ [eia.gov] "Electricity consumption totaled nearly 3,856 billion Kilowatthours (kWh) in 2011."

  • So what happens to the environment when we extract all that energy?

  • "One terawatt-hour of electricity is enough to power 85,000 homes, according to the agency." Izzatso? Just HOW LONG will it power those homes for? An hour? A year? Five minutes? Will somebody please explain to every reporter on energy the difference between a watt and a watt-hour? Misuse of these terms will result in your press pass being revoked.
  • This is presumably for research papers they can wave about to say they are looking into green technology.

    16$ Million isn't a lot of money to do anything real with. I used to live close to one of the handful of Tidal (Barrage) generating stations in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was built in the 80's for likely a very exorbitant to build (likely overruns etc... who knows how much it cost), and only generates 20MW.

    To put that in perspective, that is like 7 Windmills.

    The good: Well unless someone blows up the moon o

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

Working...