H-CENTRAL COAST

Dec 12, 2013 8:39 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

California waves could be turned into electricity

Cal Poly students want to turn ocean waves into electricity.

The U.S. Department of Energy is establishing a national test facility somewhere along the U.S. shoreline, and Cal Poly wants California to be that location.

Cal Poly is competing against universities in Washington, Oregon and some along the eastern seaboard, in trying to convince Congress to appropriate a $50 million grant to build and operate the state of the art facility.

It's no secret that the ocean is a powerful place, but can that power be turned into electricity?

"Wave energy is one of those technologies that is just waiting for that opportunity and California has a thousand miles of coastline," said Sam Blakeslee, Director of Advanced Technology at Cal Poly.

He says prototype wave machines like one in Portugal absorb wave energy and relay the electricity through subsea cables to a power grid on shore. He says the same can be done here in California.

"Virtually every technology, once they're given an opportunity, show leaps and bounds of progress," said Blakeslee.

As the waves pass over the worm-like device, the sections bend in the water. The movement is what creates the electricity. As California is one of the biggest consumers of energy in the world, Blakeslee says this renewable technology could provide more than a third of the state's electricity needs.

"It's clean energy, it's zero carbon, there are no emissions," said Blakeslee.

And within the next five years, it also could be a reality.

"But until they actually have a place they can deploy these technologies in a deep sea environment, they'll pretty much only be ideas on a white board," said Blakeslee.

Cal Poly has the next year to prove California has the infrastructure capabilities to handle the power generated by the wave energy device. They'll also take a look at ecosystem impacts, saying initial research suggests it would be minimal.

Cal Poly has been awarded a $750,000 grant for research over the next year.

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