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Harnessing ocean wave power in the shadow of the Rockies

The federal government estimates waves have enough power to eventually provide almost 60% of the country's electricity.
Harnessing ocean wave power in the shadow of the Rockies
Posted at 7:42 PM, Dec 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-12 20:43:32-05

The world's oceans cover more than 70% of the planet, and the waves moving through them carry the promise of endlessly renewable, clean energy waiting to be harnessed.

One of the places where researchers are exploring these possibilities is in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, in Colorado.

Landlocked Colorado may seem like an odd place to study the ocean. But at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Arvada, not far from Denver, a special 13,000-gallon wave tank is helping researchers test new designs that can capture that kinetic energy and transform it into electricity.

It's called the Sea Wave Environment Laboratory, or SWEL.

"Basically, the waves come by and push the top float up and down. And you can harness that motion as energy," said research engineer Charles Candon. 

The idea is that ocean waves might one day help generate clean electricity and send it to electrical grids onshore. The federal government estimates waves have enough power to eventually provide almost 60% of the country's electricity.

"Those waves are always there, and they have tons of energy," Candon said.

Making electricity is a major source of human-caused climate change. Companies like CalWave are working to perfect cleaner devices that generate current without burning fossil fuels.

Designs from CalWave and several other companies will soon be in the water at a full-scale Department of Energy testing site off the coast of Oregon expected to be up and running by 2025.

"We're initially focusing on coastal and remote communities," said CalWave Power Technologies CEO and co-founder Marcus Lehmann. "Then globally, there's a large potential to really help fill that gap to get us to 100% clean energy.

Until then, researchers and engineers will keep looking for the best ocean-faring designs on the plains of Colorado.

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