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Betting on Long Shots

January 10, 2017

Another Department of Energy (DOE) long shot bet using tax payer money on a renewable energy source .

DOE recently awarded the Oregon State University’s (OSU’s), Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) a $40 million grant.

In making the grant, the DOE said, “Wave energy resources range between approximately 900 TWh and 1,230 TWh per year, distributed across the coast of Alaska, the West Coast, the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. For context, approximately 90,000 homes can be powered by 1 TWh per year.”

While impressive, the probability of wave energy ever becoming economically viable is close to zero.

While research is useful, tax payer money could be put to better use than for, what is clearly, a very long shot investment.

Graphic from Oregon State University web site

Graphic from Oregon State University web site

Wave energy faces huge obstacles.

The ocean environment is destructive. Wave energy installations must be able to withstand huge storms, a corrosive salt water environment and destructive marine organisms.

There have been several test facilities and numerous experiments of wave energy around the world.

Testing has been done at Perth, Australia, in Scotland, Hawaii, Northern Ireland, off the Aguçadoura coast of Portugal, a tidal barge off the French coast and the Sihwa Lake tidal power station in South Korea.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) noted, “Levelized costs of ocean energy technologies are currently substantially higher than those of other renewable [wind and solar] energy technologies.”

And electricity from wind and solar is two to four times more costly than electricity from natural gas or coal-fired power plants.

There is no question that the ocean has tremendous power and virtually unlimited energy, but trying to capture that energy to generate electricity is unlikely to be accomplished economically with any existing technology.

There are few environments on earth that are as harsh as that found in the ocean.

The allure of wave energy is romantic, but the reality is that we aren’t likely to see the generation of electricity from the motion of waves or tides … except from demonstration sites.

Wave energy is a boondoggle, and not suitable for the use of tax payer money when the nation is already seriously in debt.

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Nothing to Fear, Part 2, explores the problems of using wind and solar for generating electricity.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon:

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Stacy permalink
    January 10, 2017 9:15 am

    Thanks Donn. Spot on.

  2. jdonnellon11comcastnet permalink
    January 10, 2017 1:27 pm

    Donn, excellent article on the probably of wave energy. Sure is a lot of grant money available for other sources of energy.

    Received my Reagan membership card. The ranch sure is doing great work for the American youth.

    A Happy new year to you in sunny Florida.


    • January 10, 2017 2:15 pm

      Great to hear you are involved with the Reagan Ranch.
      They do a great job.

  3. Bryan Leyland permalink
    January 10, 2017 5:40 pm


    You are quite right about wave power being a dead duck – except for Sea wave invented by my friend Prof Norman Bellamy that uses a completely different approach and has a much higher chance of being economic.

    If he can make it work, all other wave energy technologies will be obsolete overnight.

    The information I am sending you is now somewhat obsolete. He has come up with some improved concepts.

    Kind regards,

    Bryan Leyland


  4. January 10, 2017 10:13 pm

    Great article with great points. People seem to forget that storms trash the coasts and any debris get used like a battering ram. I like to think of anything water based as 10x more costly than land based. The only remotely interesting wave based generator I’ve seen is the wave riding arms of Brazil. The arm rides the water, everything else is safely on land.

    • January 11, 2017 8:46 am

      Thanks for your comments and information.

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