Cleantech Goes to Sea: Waves, Tides, & Offshore Wind

With over 70 percent of the earth’s surface covered in water, a number that is likely to only increase in the coming years, it makes sense for cleantech entrepreneurs to head out to sea to collect energy in and on our oceans. Putting expensive energy generation equipment out on the open seas is a risky experiment; some of the first startups have lost devices to Davy Jones locker. But as more and more researchers send out their green energy devices on the big blue, they’ll start getting their sea legs.

StatoilHydro, a Norwegian energy company, announced this week their intention to build and test the a full scale floating wind turbine, the first of its kind the company says. While offshore wind turbines are nothing new, especially in the Norwegian fjords, making it float could make deployment and construction much faster and cheaper.

The floating turbine, called Hywind, will mount a 2.3 MW wind turbine onto a spar-buoy, a float commonly used in docking platforms. The pilot project will test the turbine out at sea for two years and will cost an estimated 400 million NOK (or about $80 million). The project is schedule to start in fall of 2009.

Marine Current Turbines was working beneath the waves this week, and installed a massive tidal turbine, which the the British startup says is the world’s largest. The 1.2 MW SeaGen turbine is now being run through a 12-week trial period in the Strangford Narrows in Northern Ireland. Once testing is over, the 1000-ton generator is estimated to have its two 16 meter turbines generate power 16 to 20 hours a day and will feed its power into the Northern Ireland grid.

On the other side of the world, Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey-headquartered wave energy startup, has signed a joint development agreement with Australian energy provider Griffin Energy for the development, construction and operation of a wave power station off the coast of Western Australia. The wave energy station will produce between 10 and 100 MW. The financial details and time line of the project were not disclosed. The companies estimate that as little as 100 hectares of open ocean could produce 100 MW of power off the Western Australian coast.