Every continent, almost by definition, is surrounded mostly by oceans. Big, powerful, wave-filled oceans. Harnessing the energy of waves has recently moved out of science-fiction and into reality as Oregon gets America's first wave park.
Ocean Power Technologies is building a wave park off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon. When complete in 2012, the wave park will have 10 PowerBuoys, each of which can generate up to 150 kiloWatts. The project will deliver enough energy for 375 homes.
The 150-foot tall buoys are mostly submerged. The buoy moves up and down and the wave motion moves a long piston up and down, which in turn, drives a generator. They can generate power in waves ranging from 5 feet to 23 feet high. All ten buoys can share one underground cable back to dry land, and the whole array can be placed in a 30-acre space.
Currently, wave technology is more expensive than wind power, due to the complications of dealing with the untamed ocean, but in the long run, wave parks can be more affordable, predictable and constant than either wind or solar. (It should be noted that Oregon's first attempt at wave farming from another company sank two years ago.) Plus, there doesn't seem to be as many objections to wave parks as there are to wind farms. Would you want one off your coast?