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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions

Wave Energy Takes the Plunge with PG&E

The ocean's power-generating prowess supports California's new laws require utilities to get 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2010.

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California water conservation runoff to ocean Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has become the first U.S. utility to commit to buying electricity generated by ocean waves. PG&E's new contract covers energy captured from a wave project planned by Canada's Finavera Renewables Inc. to be sited in the waters off the coast of Northern California's Humboldt County.

The 15-year energy deal could begin delivering energy in 2010 and provide a meager boost to the grid: just 2 megawatts -- enough to power about 1,500 homes. But PG&E sees the deal as a significant milestone for a promising green technology that could be a major source of renewable energy for the state.

"It's very, very much an emerging technology," said Roger Bedard, ocean energy leader at the Electric Power Research Institute and coauthor of a 2006 study of wave power's potential in California. He applauded PG&E's move, noting that wave power could capture more energy in less space than wind and solar power systems.

The power contract must still win approval from the California Public Utilities Commission as well as a host of federal and state agencies.

According to the Los Angeles Times, residents in Humboldt County, 100 miles south of the Oregon border, welcomed the notion of adding new alternative energy sources, but they were concerned about the effect on the region's fishing industry and surfing culture. Some groups also worry that whales and other sea life could be harmed by the equipment.

Interest in the ocean's power-generating prowess is continues to accelerate, fueled by California's laws that require utilities to generate 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2010. Other states are pursuing similar goals.

The executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Technologies finds that some people are skeptical about wave power's future but considers wave energy an area that's worth exploring.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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