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February 8, 2016

Harnessing wave energy to light up coastal communities


Oscilla Power develops a wave energy converter sturdy enough for the ocean, practical enough for the grid

There's a new renewable energy player in town and it's about to make waves in the industry. Despite its massive potential as a source for renewable energy, the ocean is unlikely to contribute meaningfully to electricity supplies without dramatic, innovation-driven reductions in the cost of energy conversion.

That's where engineers Balky Nair, Rahul Shendure and Tim Mundon come in with their company, Oscilla Power. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), they're developing a utility-scale wave energy harvester called the Triton. It's a sturdy system with few moving parts -- rugged enough to stand up to harsh seas with little need for maintenance. This technology shows promise as a means for delivering utility-scale electric power to the grid at a price that is competitive with conventional fossil or renewable technologies.

The team plans more tests with increasingly larger and more sophisticated prototypes. At full scale, each Triton system will be 30 yards wide and will power more than 650 homes.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF grant #1127503, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II: Materials for Renewable Energy Systems.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Kate Tobin, Science Nation Producer


Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.