Grid Connected Wave Power in USA

Ocean Power Technologies buoy at USMC base in Hawaii

Ocean Power Technologies buoy at USMC base in Hawaii

At Last…

Original image link to a project description from OPTT that gives more details on the project.

I’ve been waiting for this for about 4 years now (maybe longer). We finally have a bit of wave generated electrical power being ‘grid connected’. I was beginning to despair as California had the PUC decline to license a project off the California coast. (Just because the state is bankrupt, that’s no reason to change our ‘NIMBY’ policies… better to just keep on chasing industries out of the state…). OK, Finavera’s loss can be gain for OPTT.


In October (2008), Finavera’s plans for wave power in California were dashed when the California Public Utilities Commission denied an application for a deal between PG&E and Finavera for a 2 MW project in the Golden State. Finavera made headlines when it signed the deal last year, calling it the first commercial wave energy contract in the U.S.

Finavera still has wave projects in the works for elsewhere in British Columbia, as well as in Washington state and South Africa, but when the California wave power deal was sunk the company said that going forward it planned to focus its efforts on wind energy development in British Columbia, its neighboring province of Alberta, and Ireland.

But Hawaii is not so dumb. Nor are the US Marines.

U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corp Base, Hawaii

Has just completed the grid attachment of a wave power facility. The facility has been running for almost a year already, just not connected to the power grid. From a

Business Wire Press Release via

Ocean Power Technologies Completes First-Ever Grid
Connection of a Wave Energy Device in the US

PENNINGTON, N.J., Sep 27, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. (“OPT” or the “Company”) announces that it has completed the first-ever grid connection of a wave energy device in the United States at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii (“MCBH”), in conjunction with the US Navy. This connection demonstrates the ability of OPT’s PowerBuoy(R) systems to produce utility-grade, renewable energy that can be transmitted to the grid in a manner fully compliant with national and international standards.

The PB40 PowerBuoy is part of OPT’s ongoing program with the US Navy to develop and test the Company’s PowerBuoy wave energy technology. The project began as a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Key program goals include demonstrating system reliability and survivability, and the successful interconnection with the grid serving MCBH.

The PowerBuoy was deployed on December 14, 2009 approximately three-quarters of a mile off the coast of Oahu in water depth of 100 feet. To date, the PowerBuoy has operated and produced power from over 3 million power take-off cycles and 4,400 hours of operation. The PowerBuoy grid interface was certified in 2007 by an independent laboratory, Intertek Testing Services, as compliant with national and international standards, including the safety standards UL1741 and IEEE1547, and also bears the ETL Listed mark.

DISCLAIMER: I own a tiny position in OPTT and own some Birkshire Hathaway (who own Business wire). Though in fairness, mostly I’ve just lost money on OPTT and own it as I’m interested in the technology.

OPTT Ocean Power Technologies

As you can see, I’ve been riding it down from “upper left to lower right” (though I owned it before the run up to the peak too). At present, the chart looks a bit ‘bottomed’ with RSI having the ‘low dips’ at ever higher points, MACD with ‘blue on top’ and above zero, and DMI with blue on top. The SMA lines are ‘merged’ with price on top and separation to the upside forming.

OK, it’s a ‘flakey little start up’ with nearly no income. But this is a big step forward. It will likely continue to take years, but once there is an existence proof of making money and power, folks will buy more of these. As it is wave power (and NOT tidal), you don’t have the 2 x day slack tide time. Waves tend to be there all the time, though with some variance.

The Chart:

OPTT Ocean Power Technology Inc.

OPTT Ocean Power Technology Inc.

Wave From Where?

Most of the waves at sea come from storms and wind way off in the distance. So as long as there are storms, there will be wave power. This makes it pretty easy to predict the power likely to be available, as storms exist for weeks at a time and have fairly clear seasonal variations.

For places, like the U.K., that are located in waters with many storms (especially during winter) it ought to make a good match to demand patterns.

This site, for example, tracks storms:

currently featuring Hurricane Matthew (now a tropical storm) passing Tabasco in Mexico. (I always knew Matthew liked Tabasco ;-)

so you can easily see what wave makers are out there.

And the demand looks to be ‘built in’ (from the OPTT project description link up top):

The PowerBuoy deployment site is located approximately three-quarters of a mile off the coast in 100 feet of water. Compact and modular in design, the PB40 PowerBuoy is less than 12 feet in diameter and 55 feet long. It is based on OPT’s proprietary design which is primarily below the sea surface when deployed, with minimal visual impact. Deployment of the PowerBuoy was supported by Hawaiian diver and workboat subcontractors.

OPT is proud of the support which it has received from officials at the Marine Corps Base in Hawaii and the US Navy. This reflects the Navy’s long-term commitment to renewable energy and reducing its dependence on fuel oil shipments. Many of its naval bases around the world are suitable for OPT’s wave power stations.

How Much Power Is Available?

FWIW, in this article:

I’d done a rough estimate (based on production in a different location) that a field of these devices of about 1000 miles long (less than the Pacific Ocean coastline of the USA) and about 4 miles wide could provide all the power needed for the USA. (Though clearly you would not want to have all your power supplied by one type of source). That is one heck of a lot of power available, should we wish to use it.


I’m adding a diagram of the whole structure and a link to their technology page and the product description page.

The Product Page where I found this picture. Their “technology” page entry point that has several sub pages.

OPTT Power Buoy 150 Diagram (sizes in feet)

OPTT Power Buoy 150 Diagram (sizes in feet)


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Earth Sciences, Economics - Trading - and Money. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Grid Connected Wave Power in USA

  1. Verity Jones says:

    I must admit I like wavepower too. I also like tidal. There is something about the properties of water that makes it so much more sensible than wind. Oh yes – its density and ability to move heavy things moreso than air ;-)

    The short slack water period of tidal is a small price to pay for the overall predictability and inevitability of tides

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    I actually expect that the two will work well together. During incoming tides, the waves are chasing the tide so I’d expect a bit less power, but the tidal system will ‘fill in’. Then at slack tide, the waves ought to ‘stack up a bit’ on the wall of halting tide…

  3. wolfwalker says:

    How does the company propose to deal with the problem of fouling by sea-life?

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, it’s mostly just a big bobber in the ocean, so fouling ought not to do much. I suspect it’s the same thing done for other buoys and ships. Anti-fouling paint and haulout once every couple of years OR put a diver in once a year or two to scrape it.

  5. Bulaman says:

    US Govt send money to Kiwis wave project..(plus 27 others..


  6. LarryOldtimer says:

    Simple enough technology. Just “harvest” the swells (forget about tidal, way too expensive). There are coatings to keep the growth off. Californians are nutso to the max, far too many of them. Lived in SoCal for 40 years myself, beginning in 1958, but got too nutso for me by 1998. Great climates attract far too many of the useless.

  7. j ferguson says:

    LarryOldtimer:”There are coatings to keep the growth off.”

    No kidding. Since I have this problem on a full-time basis, I’d sure like a reference.

    The process our host describes is the one I’m condemned to, but I would welcome a better idea – magic potion, or ??

    E.M., is there a sketch somewhere of how the bobber works? I too like the idea although our loose change is in Thorium research.

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    @j. Ferguson: The tin based anti-fouling paints work really well, but are substantially banned in places like California. Copper based paints work OK, but becoming an issue. I’d suggest a google of ‘antifouling paint’ for the current state of the art.

    This article looked like a good summary:

    If I were perpetually at sea, I’d look into getting a tin paint job somewhere “understanding” in central America …

    Also, I’ve added a diagram of how the “bobber” works to the page (and links to the tech and product sections of the OPTT web site). Pretty simple. Float on top. “Basket” 100 feet down. shaft in a sleeve in between. Wave pulls them apart, gravity pushes them back together. Float stops the gravity from sinking it. I expect there is an anchor cable to prevent it from wandering too far or being lifted too high.

    Would be interesting to make a 2 kw version for boats… maybe what, ( sqrt(36)/10)^2 in diameter? I make that 1/3 foot…. sounds a bit ‘light’… but heck, even if it was just 1 m in diameter, not that hard to make… Wonder what the formula is for diameter of bobber to power? (or volume of bobber or?…) Then again, to the extent people moor in sheltered places they dodge the waves, and to the extent they are underway, a small hydro generator would work better… and probably have a whole lot less drag.

  9. j ferguson says:

    Tin anti-fouling is illegal on boats like ours in the US. With 18 years in tropical waters and always using “…reported most effective” for this area, copper based w/biocide until a year ago, and watching what everyone else’s bottoms look like when they’re hauled, be assured that nothing “legal” works completely in warm water. We scrape stuff off twice a year, paint every second year.

    Getting hauled Nov 1, so we’ll report on how new stuff does.

    If the generators are tethered in colder waters, though, experience should be better than Florida.

    On thorium, have a look at Lightbridge.

    Thanks for posting picture.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    Didn’t know how often you were in “US” waters… (If it was me, I’d be OOTUS more than in… then again, not being in hurricane alley during hurricane season has it’s benefits ;-)

    FWIW, I’ve owned some amount of Lightbridge LTBR since back when it was Thorium Power THPW IIRC. I’ll be real happy as soon as they have approval to sell production bundles. It’s OK that they have certification bundles in burnup for, well, certification; but it will start to move a lot once they are selling production fuel loads to countries with Russian style reactors (even more when they get a US or Euro reactor bundle certified…) Made a little trading them during prior spikes; probably lost more holding it during drops…

    FWIW I had a 27 footer I lived aboard for about 2 years (and used weekends for another 4?) It was a very dumpy (wide beam shallow draft and darned slow) boat and after 3 years I decided to let it be mossy bottomed ;-)

    At the typical 4 knots best it would do, the drag didn’t change much ;-0

    Had about 28 INCHES of draft with a wide shallow keel. Made about as much leeway as V made good. BUT San Franciso and San Pablo bays are both really wide rivers with shallow flood plains on each side. The average depth is something like 10 feet, and includes the 700 foot part under the Golden Gate Bridge, so most of the area is under 5 foot depth. So I could sail pretty much the whole thing and other folks could not.

    The ‘outer channel marker’ for Port Sonoma (where I berthed for a year or two) was miles from land. On one occasion saw a guy with sails up and leaning, AND with a brown churning behind him; auxiliary motor in full throat. Folks on the deck began waving frantically as my heading was in front of them (inside the channel) buy my lee way was putting my course just behind them, so I’d let off the heading to swing way behind and outside of them.

    They, being stuck fin keel in muck, were sure I’d do the same, thus the frantic waving off…

    Then they slowly stopped waving, and then looked rather pissed as we waved and smiled while I tacked WAAaaayyy outside the channel to get around them…

    With the softness of the bottom, I think I could likely drag a 1 foot depth of keel through the muck and not get stuck until the water depth was near 1 1/3 feet… Only once did I stir up a mud trail, and that water looked to be about 2 1/2 feet to me. Kind of eerie when you look down and see you are sailing in bottom grasses ;-)

    Had lots of folks look, scratch head, and wonder how I got where I went. But my bay was much larger than theirs…

    OTOH, when the tide was going out Raccoon Strait (between Angle Island and Tiburon, it would go fast enough that even with a good wind, I’d tack side to side in the channel and go nowhere. Leeway eating all my heading. Once, with main on one side and jib on the other, wing and wing, with a very stiff wind at my back, I made it up the channel against the tide, but it still took a long time…

    I miss my old boat…

  11. P.G. Sharrow says:

    A boat is a hole in the water that you pour time and money into.
    Actually, I spent two years in Prince William Sound, Alaska, in the 1970’s, almost stayed. Miss it from time to time. Being on the water in a slow boat is very restful. :-) pg

  12. P.G. Sharrow says:

    This wave action bobber generator appears to me to be a good design. The construction and anchoring and maintainance of buoys in open waters is well known. No new engineering to cause unforeseen problems. No unknown enviromental problems. As a former Navy electrician I don’t like mixing salt water and electricity but it has been done for over 100 years. All other sea based power generation devices and systems that I have seen have ether siting problems, totally strange trouble plagued designs and unreconized enviromental draw backs. The only enviromental effects that I see are better fish habitat and less wave forces on the near shore. pg

  13. j ferguson says:

    P.G. Sharrow: the wave attenuator system – great observation.

    E.M. that was surely a shallow draft boat. was there anything to the story that cleaning up the Bay led to significant increases in wood consuming creatures eating up the wood piers?

    Thorium Power, THPW, came to our house via an investment SWMBO’s dad made with a couple of classmates from MIT ’34. I don’t know who discovered the company, but they all bought some and we found it when we went through his paperwork after he died.

    There was a lot of it. He had a technical biography of Alvin Radkowski and some notes from one of the classmates who’d known him. We dug around, found a phone number, talked to Seth Grae and then went to the next stockholders’ meeting.

    There were about 30 people there and after the presentation, I went around and talked to people. This was one of the brightest groups I’ve ever encountered although most were primarily full time investors. (isn’t that what you are?) There were a couple of physicists.

    So we kept it.

    They keep plugging away. I’m a bit mystified as to why it’s taking so long for thorium to get going again as a fuel source when it’s benefits are so obvious.

    As an investment, we keep it because I like the idea.

  14. j ferguson says:

    From their web site:

    Ocean Power Technologies Inc. was floated on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market in October 2003 following a successful IPO, and is traded on the AIM market under the symbol “OPT”.

    Ah yes, “floated”

    An outfit with a sense of humor warrants watching. Seriously.

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    A lot of the wood stuff has ‘gone away’ but I’m not sure why…

    There is more “life” in the bay than before, and I like that.

    Yes, I’m a ‘professional investor and trader’ now.

    I keep LTBR for the same reason. Sometimes trade in more then drop back to my core position.

    The burnup of the nuclear stockpile has kept fuel prices very low, and with little desire to move to other sources. As the bomb grade stuff gets used up, and U prices rise, Th will gain traction.

    They pin their hopes right now on India (who want to use their domestic Th supply) and places in ‘politically sensitive’ places where the reduced proliferation risk might let a compromise be reached where Th bundles let them have nuclear electricity and suppress nuclear bomb special materials formation…

    (Though, frankly, since both India and the USA have made nuke bombs with U233 from Th breeders I think the second reason has weaknesses… Ours was named “Mike” IIRC)

    That’s why the first fuel bundles being made are for Russion reactors. So we can lean on places with left over Soviet Nuke Plants to use a more acceptable bundle…

    I find myself tempted to go get some Thorium sands and extract some, just to have a small lump… but I resist the urge as the cost and effort are likely high for a guy in the kitchen…

    (No, I’m not worried about the radiation, it’s less than from U and I had a U porcelain coated tooth cap for about 30 years…)

    But the folks are well connected and the technology is sound, so I hang on and wait for the old soviet bomb Pu to get used up in MOX bundles…

  16. j ferguson says:

    Since we had it (LTBR) anyway and had watched it move up and down, it occurred to me that it might be a tide machine – a stock which moves up and down over time with some reliability making it possible to buy at the lower excursion and sell at the higher – repeat.

    I vaguely remember a story abut two guys who’d made tide-machine detecting and utilization an investment technique. It had worked well for them over the decades prior to 2000 when I think i read of them.

    We don’t trade ourselves- our stuff is with a management outfit in Salem, Mass whose charge is not to do better than everyone else, just not worse. Preservation.

    LTBR is in a separate account with other “hobby” interests.

    I still couldn’t find a diagram of how the wave machine works. How do they cope with change in tether length due to tides? Is the reciprocating motion converted to rotating for generation? Looks like it isn’t.

    Maybe one of your wizard readers can guess how it works.

  17. RuhRoh says:

    by what ‘logic’ did the Sea Puke decline the wavepower application?


  18. j ferguson says:

    Forgive me for my hopefully unusual blabbiness today, (weathered-in in Solomons MD) but when I read about California’s official reluctance to have any of the industrial wherewithal needed to support its residents’ lifestyles i think of the Eloi and Morlocks in HG Wells’ “Time machine.”

    For those unfamiliar, The Eloi live the la la life in a Garden of Eden kind of place. The Morlocks live underground and run the machinery that makes the whole thing possible.

    Periodically, a bell rings, the Eloi line up and descend through a temple-like passageway never to be seen again.

    If there’s a choice, I go with the Morlocks – perpetual dirt under the fingernails.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    @J. Ferguson: A stock that “rolls” in a range is a gold mine. I call them “flat rollers”. The best indicator is usually the Slow Stochastic and you just ‘tick tock’ with it. Keep an eye on RSI too. This is called a “swing trade”. (it is a subset of “swing trade”, but a major subset…).

    Stocks running in a direction are a ‘trend trade’ and you trade in the direction of the ‘trend’ until the trend ends. (Usually MACD having a crossover).

    For completion, the ‘day trade’ is done inside a single day and has a lot in common with the ‘swing trade’ but the interval of time traded is under one day. There are particular oddities of the daily cycle that you must allow for. In particular, the first 30 minutes after the open usually have a spike up and down (or down then up) as the market maker assesses the likely trend for the day, then there is a run in the direction that has the most volume, a reversal about 12-1 pm Eastern, then a finish in the dominant direction. But not always… At 1:30 PM the margin desk issues margin calls. A run that starts at 1:30 Eastern tells you how much money is ‘on the wrong side’ and can give a nice 2 hour trade to the end of the day. The final 30 minutes are often a ‘fade’ of the dominant trade. The day trader surfs those small cycles… It helps to have “live” charts without the required 20 minute delay that the free services have, and a 1 to 5 minute time tick…

    My favorite trades are trend trades, but I’ve done swing trades too. For a long time, NVDA NVidia was a nice ‘roller’ and you could ‘range trade’ it (a ‘range trade’ is a kind of swing trade where the ‘swing’ happens more or less between fairly consistent price points.).

    One of my major faults is that instead of just picking a couple of tickers and coming to understand all their details, then pick the kind of trade that is right for the moment; I tend to trade too many tickers and look for a ticker that fits my preferred style of trade…

    Being a “Morlock” sympathizer myself, I’m not so willing to take orders from the Eloi of the world… They aren’t that bright…

    @Ruhroh: I have no idea how they ‘think’…

    I expect California (and all the “Socialism Light” states, perhaps along with the feds depending on what happens in November) to keep on the same path until things are completely and irretrievably broken. It’s been the pattern in all prior movements toward socialism. The ultimate testimonial to the power of “I know I must be right” over history and experience. Just need to find a way to avoid being part of the collateral damage…

    @J. Ferguson: I’d design it with a hydraulic ram-pump and a hydraulic motor turning a DC generator myself. Though a simple “magnet in a coil” would work too…

  20. j ferguson says:

    E.M. I was thinking magnet and coil but all that steel? I like the hydraulic idea better. If they can do it without having seals on the ram, it would be better. A while back there was a scheme involving a platform which tipped in the waves – no moving seal problem.

    Collateral? I’d like not to be a target.

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    For mag in coil, put mag on stick, have coil around it, have two cylinders of steel with sealing next… Basically, the steel tubes make an outer shell, inside of which you can do magnet and coil as desired… But I still like the hydraulic approach better ;-)

  22. Paul Hanlon says:

    Finally something I can comment on on on this wonderful site.
    I too am a big fan of wave power. A ten foot wave, which is about average once you get out at sea, has some 50KW of power for every metre across!! Harness just a small amount of that and you can see why they say that 1000 miles of wave machines would power the whole of America.
    The drawbacks atm seem to be anchoring them (quite a bit of infrastructure needed for that), and getting the power back to shore where it’s needed without losing too much to the resistance in the power cables.
    There’s another system called the Pelamis which is undergoing trials in Scotland and Portugal which seems to hold out some promise. It’s basically a giant snake, whose segments move relative to each other, and from that motion it extracts power hydraulically.
    Another advantage of these is that they could help where coastal erosion is an issue by taking a lot of the sting out of the waves.
    Renewables can definitely work, but until a way is found to store the energy until needed, we’re putting the cart before the horse, IMO. That’s the huge advantage that fossil fuels have, so much energy stored in a very small space.
    A side advantage to finding a suitable way of storing the power is we need never have another brownout so it would be a good thing to do even if there were no renewables. There would be no need to throttle back the power stations at nighttime, meaning we could use only the most efficient ones. It would also enable us to build renewable facilities without having to factor in a backup station alongside them.

  23. E.M.Smith says:

    @Paul Hanlon: I bet there’s a lot you could comment on… even if it’s just to say “What does ‘foo’ mean?”…

    Yeah, I like the Palamis. Don’t know how trials are going, though.

    Hadn’t considered the erosion control thing, but you’re right!

    Markets are really really good at doing resource allocation. Congress is terrible at it.

    Storage is a major problem. If it’s not the cost, it’s the efficiency. There isn’t any cheap efficient system that can be made “in size”… yet.

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