A New Mexico wave energy company hopes to place a string of test wave energy buoys three miles west of Cape Arago this summer, just outside Oregon’s Territorial Sea.
‘It’s in the planning process,” said Phil Kithil, the founder and chief executive officer of Atmocean, a company that develops wave energy technology.
If Kithil receives the necessary permits, he plans to launch a string of three test buoys in mid-July. This test will last only three weeks, Kithil said. Then the buoys will be removed.
This will be the company’s first real-world test of Atmocean’s wave energy technology. Kithil plans to use the three-week test to measure hydraulic output, calculate electrical potential and refine mooring, deployment and retrieval techniques.
He will use pumps suspended between the buoys to measure the hydraulic output.
‘We would get real world ocean waves and how much energy we would capture and transmit from those,” Kithil said. ‘That is a key factor because wave tanks don’t properly imitate what the ocean actually does. Ocean waves vary moment to moment.”
The test buoys would occupy an area of the ocean about the size of a football field, Kithil said.
Kithil does not intend to establish a permanent wave energy park, with multiple buoys, off the Oregon Coast.
Instead, he hopes his technology will eventually be used to power remote island communities in Hawaii or the Caribbean, which currently rely on diesel to produce energy.
‘They’re importing diesel and burning diesel,” both of which generate substantial pollution, Kithil said. This also means the cost of power on an island is much higher than on the mainland, which is generally connected to a power grid with multiple power sources, he said.
From a business standpoint, it’s more practical to build a wave energy park near an energy-starved island than try to compete with Oregon’s hydroelectric power generated on the Columbia River, Kithil added.
For this summer’s test project, Kithil said he intends to hire a local company to build the buoy apparatuses.
Atmocean’s technology to harness the wave energy was invented to be a wave-driven ocean pump. It was originally designed to push cold water from the ocean floor to the surface during a hurricane in the hopes of reducing the hurricane’s intensity, according to the Atmocean website.
After Kithil transformed his invention to harness wave energy, he submitted it to General Electric’s Ecomagination Challenge in July 2010. It was ‘judged in the top 100 of over 4,000 entries,” according to the website. However, Atmocean did not receive funding for the technology.
Assuming there are no major glitches with July test, Kithil hopes to have his technology ready for market by 2013.