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Oregon Researchers Look to Tap Ocean as Energy Source

by CBB Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - June 13, 2003

Anyone who's ever walked near the pounding surf on an ocean beach or watched a tide charge through a channel knows that the perpetually moving waters of the world's oceans hold vast amounts of untapped energy.

Figuring out how to harness that energy and turn it into electricity, however, is an age-old challenge.

But researchers in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University will soon employ innovation and the latest technology in an attempt to discover viable ways of tapping the ocean as a source of clean energy.

Annette von Jouanne and Alan Wallace, professors in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, have received a two-year, $270,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to design, implement, and test a prototype ocean energy extraction system that could result in new jobs for coastal economies, decreased shore erosion, and a clean source of renewable energy.

"Ocean energy is an idea whose time has come," said Wallace. "If only 0.2 percent of the untapped energy of the oceans could be harnessed, it could generate enough power to supply the entire world."

Although ocean energy extraction has been researched for more than 200 years, new technologies and a growing demand for clean energy sources have prompted renewed interest in ways to extract energy from ocean waves, currents, and tidal changes.

Wallace and von Jouanne say the multi-disciplinary research project will utilize expertise and equipment in various OSU departments and facilities, and involve a number of industry collaborators, including Energy Northwest, Bonneville Power Administration, Aqua Energy Group and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"This industry and university collaboration brings together a unique combination of resources and facilities unmatched anywhere else in the world," Wallace said.

The OSU facilities include the Motor Systems Resource Facility, an electrical power lab with the highest power rating of any university in North America; the Energy Resources Research Laboratory, where researchers are developing turbine models; and the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory that is undergoing a $4.8 million expansion and will house the world's largest tsunami research wave basin.

The OSU engineers hope that by collaborating with industry partners, the project will not only lead to economic development in Oregon, but will also help engineering students gain hands-on experience in the field of sustainable power.

"By engaging industry with academia, we will develop solutions with enormous economic impact potential, and we will also train the next generation of engineering talent to ensure low cost, clean, renewable and reliable power," von Jouanne said.

Von Jouanne and Wallace plan to collaborate with the OSU College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences to make the university "a multidisciplinary pioneer of ocean energy extraction technology."

CBB Staff
Oregon Researchers Look to Tap Ocean as Energy Source
Columbia Basin Bulletin, June 13, 2003

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