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Wave power to go commercial in California
Written by Daniel   
Tuesday, 18 December 2007 12:40

Wave power to go commercial in California

By Michael Kanellos
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: December 17, 2007, 9:00 PM PST

Sea power may finally be on the horizon.
Pacific Gas & Electric, the large Northern California utility, has signed a power purchase agreement with Finavera Renewables for 2 megawatts of electricity that will come from a wave farm, which Finavera will build 2.5 miles off the coast near California's Humboldt County.

Ideally, the wave farm will start producing power in 2012. It will offset 245 tons of carbon dioxide annually, and if it succeeds, Finavera will expand the wave farm to 100 megawatts.

"With PG&E behind us, we will be able to go to a bank, if we can show there is no technology risk, to get financing," said Jason Bak, Finavera's CEO, in an interview. The exact location of the wave farm will be determined by the location of onshore power lines and electrical stations.

Finavera makes a device called the Aquabuoy, a buoy connected to a long underwater piston. As the buoy bobs up and down on the waves, it pushes the piston, which pressurizes a chamber filled with seawater. The pressure cranks a turbine and electricity is made.

A full-scale buoy from Finavera will be capable of generating 250 kilowatts, enough for 80 homes. The 2-megawatt field will consist of eight devices. A 100-megawatt array of them could be squeezed into a few square miles on the sea.

Several companies and university laboratories are experimenting with ways to harness tides and waves to produce power. Some small-wave and tidal-power devices exist, but mostly it's an industry in the experimental phase. Unlike wind or sunlight, waves and tides are fairly predictable, a major plus for utilities looking for stable green sources of power.

Sea water is also more than 800 times denser than air at sea level, which means wave farms or tidal turbines can produce quite a bit of power with only a little equipment and real estate.

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