It's been some time in coming, but the first wave farm in the United States just got licensed. The 1.5-megawatt wave farm was built by Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon.
Wave farming creates electricity by harnessing the kinetic energy of rising and falling ocean waters. The technology is still very new—the world's first commercial wave farm was built off the coast of Portugal and came online in 2008 (and was taken offline in 2009).
Like any form of energy generation, wave farming comes with concerns about environmental impact. Here, for example, are some concerns voiced by opponents of a proposed wave farm in San Onofre, California:
Environmental groups, which are broadly supportive of renewable energy projects, said putting the devices in the waters of San Onofre could harm marine life and potentially mar the view from the coastline. Surfers are worried it would dampen waves and alter seafloor terrain along a stretch of coast famed for its surf breaks. Sport-fishing groups said a wave farm could block off favored waters for sand bass, bonito and barracuda fishing.
It's also a new technology, and some are skeptical that it'll stand the test of time.
Some don't believe wave energy can work, said Onno Husing, director of the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association.
"A lot of people who are very experienced with the ocean harbor a lot of doubt that anyone can in a cost-effective way put buoys in the water, harvest the energy, and not have them end up on the beach," he said.
OPT's setup is a buoy that floats up and down on waves, pushing a sort of piston up and down. The energy is transferred back to shore via underwater cabling. Learn more about wave power with this SmartPlanet primer.
Photos courtesy of Ocean Power Technologies, Inc.