13 Startups Energized by Waves and Tides

A powerful and consistent sources of energy is lapping at our shorelines: the ocean. A number of startups are looking to harness its power. The British, Scottish and American governments have all offered up money for research and development in hydrokinetic energy generation, and slowly but surely startups are getting their feet wet in the world of wave and tidal energy.

Marine Current Turbines: The British startup boasts to have the world’s first and largest commercial-scale tidal turbine, its 1.2 MW SeaGen. The startup’s corporate shareholders and strategic partners include large European banks and utilities like EDF Energy, BankInvest and Northern Ireland Electricity.

Hydro Green Energy: The Houston, Texas-based startup told us it is planning to have a commercially operable hydrokinetic energy project in Mississippi River waters up and running in September and will sell power from the 250-kilowatt project to Xcel Energy. Once up and running, Hydro Green hopes to close a Series B round of funding in the neighborhood of $70 million. Hydro Green has also signed an agreement with Wind Energy Systems Technology Group to explore the development of a hybrid offshore wind-plus-hydrokinetic ocean current power project in the Gulf of Mexico. David Gelbaum’s Quercus Trust led the company’s $2.6 million Series A round in April this year.

Verdant Power: New York-based Verdant Power was founded in 2000 and seeks to tap the energy of river currents. The company has successfully installed an array of 6 grid-connected turbines in New York’s East River. Verdant is also working on project in Canada, for which it has been granted C$3.35 million from Ontario which could be as large as 15 megawatts by 2012.

Hydrovolts: Hydrovolts was founded in 2006 and has invented three types of turbines designed to tap river currents while reducing the amount of debris that gets caught in the turbine. Based in Seattle, Wash., Hydrovolts finished a feasibility study for local utility Tacoma Power. Beyond rivers and canals, Hydrovolts is also working on combining wind and wave power to harness offshore energy in the ocean, too. The company is proposing a potential project in Grays Harbor, Wash. that it says could power Western Washington with 15,000 MW of renewable energy. The Hydrovolts founders tell us they are looking to raise capital and hire talent.

Finavera Renewables: Publicly traded Finavera has committed 2 megawatts of wave energy to PG&E in a power purchase agreement. The proposed wave park would consist of eight buoys off the Northern California coast and is planned for completion by 2012. If all goes well, Finavera hopes to expand the park to 100 MW. Its technology uses the vertical motion of waves to pressurize seawater and power a turbine.

Ocean Power Technologies: The 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 10- to 100-megawatt wave-power station off the coast of Western Australia. The company has successfully tested a 1 megawatt installation for the U.S. Navy in Hawaii. Ocean Power made a $100 million initial public offering on Nasdaq last year to help raise funds.

Orecon: British wave-power startup Orecon is reportedly building a giant steel buoy, 40 meters in diameter, that will be tethered four miles offshore and be able to generate 1.5 megawatts by 2010. The six-year old company has already raised £12 million (or $24 million) from Venrock, Advent Venture Partners, Wellington Partners and Norway’s North Zone.

Pelamis Wave Power: Another Brit wave startup, Pelamis has already raised £40 million from a list of investors including Emerald Technology Ventures, 3i and the Carbon Trust. Founded in 1998, the company is currently working on three projects — off the coasts of Portugal, Cornwall and Scotland — which are in development but have yet to put a buoy in the water for any of them. The company claims that its prototype was the first grid-connected wave energy generator in the world when it was tested in 2004. The company’s technology is very similar to that proposed by Google for its floating data centers.

BioPower Systems: The Aussie startup is developing both tidal and wave energy turbines with its bioSTREAM generator and bioWAVE, respectively. The company is now working on two pilot projects, one for each technology, with Hydro Tasmania and aims to get them running by 2009.

Atlantis Resources Corp.: Morgan Stanley recently sold its own ocean current company, Current Resources, for a majority share of Atlantis, a Singapore-based maker of ocean tidal turbines. Founded in 1996, Atlantis has developed two different turbine designs — the Solon, a ducted horizontal axis design for strong, but remote, deep sea currents and the Nereus for more accessible shallow waters. Successful, grid-connected tests of the company’s turbines have already taken place off the coast of Australia, and commercial-scale arrays are scheduled to start power production by 2012.

WaveRoller: Finnish startup WaveRoller is avoiding the surface problems of NIMBY-ism by putting a wave generator on the seabed that builds up hydraulic pressure as waves roll over it. The company is currently testing a prototype off the coast of Portugal and plans to scale the grid-connected project to 1 MW by 2009.

Ocean Renewable Power: The Maine-based startup has secured preliminary permits for sites near the famous Bay of Fundy to develop ocean and tidal current energy generation projects. The company has started installing its turbines off the Maine coast and its longer-term goals include installations in Alaska and Florida waters.

Free Flow Power: The Massachusetts-based startup has a $3 billion plan to place thousands of small electric turbines down the Mississippi river — from St. Louis to New Orleans — which could generate over a gigawatt of electricity. The startup reportedly has preliminary three-year permits to study 59 sites in the Mississippi, granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.