Electric Power Research Institute

Waving Hello To The Power of California's Coast

There's the Big Picture, and then there is the REALLY BIG picture. The Big Picture is California exceeding Gov. Brown's 33 percent renewables mandate. The REALLY BIG picture is California reaching 100 percent.

We get lots of sun (my late relatives from the freezing East practically weeped when they turned on their TVs and saw the Rose Parade under sunny skies). Wind turbines dot mountain passes in Alameda, Kern and Riverside counties. Geothermal bubbles up in Lake and Imperial counties. And there is the Coast. Wave power, baby!

Dozens of solar projects proposed for Central and Southern California will likely push the state beyond the 33 percent mandate. But why stop there? As my colleague Mike Nemeth noted in this great post, why not apply a Space Race mentality to energy, especially in this state, which is already a leader in renewables? Nemeth is especially fascinated by the prospect of wave power, as he notes in this blog.

As far fetched as it seems, wave power gets a boost in a new report (here's a link) that cites the astounding opportunities presented by the rolling waves off the coast of Central California, where I grew up. Wave power alone, if fully utilized, could supply energy needs of one-third of the nation. Read more here and here.

The Electric Power Research Institute report is pretty technical. It is full of fancy graphs and mind-numbing data, but suggests that California's waves are great for creating energy. Maybe this device, which works like a bicycle pump, could be an assist.

Population growth, the effects of climate change and dwindling supply of fossil fuel and the increased cost of extracting it, will only increase the demand for energy. Wave power could go a long way toward satisfying the demand. Over in Europe, officials have announced plans for a "marine energy park" off the coast of England, but who knows if it will come to fruition.

Closer to home, the U.S. Department of Energy is testing designs off the coast of Washington, Oregon and Maine, and tidal currents in the East River of New York are the subject of this research. But this proposal in Southern California isn't likely to get under way anytime soon.

President Obama is expected to call for action on clean energy in his State of the Union speech. Wave power is ambitious, but so was the Space Race. Harnessing the power of the ocean would be expensive and a technological challenge, but is it any tougher than going to the moon?

Photo by Roger Kirby