This could be a great renewable energy option for land-strapped coastal regions looking for sustainable energy alternatives.
Oscilla Power is the company behind an incredibly innovative technology looking to power coastal cities using nothing but the waves. This could change the game for many areas traditionally struggling with energy dependency due to isolation, lack of natural resources, or other struggles commonly attributed to coastal areas. Hawaii, for example, has some of the highest energy prices in the U.S. due to the lack of natural resources like gas and coal required to power homes and cities. Further, struggles with limited available land means dedicating large areas to solar and wind farms isn’t viable. This leads to increased costs from importing energy sources and dependency on unreliable areas like Russia and the Middle East.
It seems like Hawaii might finally have another option. The generators created by Oscilla Power are currently being produced in two sizes:
1000kW (1 megawatt)
The 100 kW generators will be the first rolled out for testing, analysis, feasibility, and similar tests and studies. The company estimates these will be able to power about 20–30 homes annually, with some estimates showing as much as 50. Things like power walls and batteries installed on people's homes and effectively managed power grids can help to increase the effectiveness of these generators, but it’s too soon to know actual numbers as there hasn’t been too much data released just yet.
It’s important to note temperate areas like Hawaii typically have hotter weather year-round, so they don’t need heat in the winter, and most don’t need or even have central air conditioning. This means homes in places like Hawaii and similar climates use much less energy. In fact, according to the EIA, Hawaii uses less energy per household than any other state, thus making the technology in lower usage areas like Hawaii much more feasible. The 1-megawatt generator is, obviously, ten times that and roughly 200–300 homes, with some estimates reaching as high as 500 homes per generator.
How It Works
The 100kW version is roughly 10 x 7.5 meters with a large weight underneath the generator for exaggerated movement. There are three moorings connected to each side to help keep it in place, and an electrical line connected from the generator then ran back to land.
The generators are surprisingly simple. As the waves move, there are small arms that crank small generators, which creates power, as seen here:
The power is then sent back to land and used to power homes.
Limitations & Setback
Like any new technology, there are limitations. While the technology is currently rated for a 20-year lifespan, that hasn’t been tested, and the ocean is notoriously brutal. While there is space on board the generators for engineers to operate inside and away from the elements, they could ultimately be a hassle to repair constantly due to the conditions they will endure. The CEO has commented that they have plans in place to combat particularly harsh weather, but it’s anyone’s guess how it will turn out.
Further, the cost is significantly higher than similar alternatives. The 1-megawatt generator is currently priced at $2–2.5 million, which is over double a comparable solar farm with a similar lifespan. So, this is definitely limited to high-cost, low accessibility coastal areas where there simply isn’t any other option. Given this incredibly high cost, it’s unclear if this is even profitable for those that purchase these generators, as most solar panels aren’t even profitable in most instances.
The average home installation of solar panels can cost upwards of $25,000 and lasts 20 years. Assuming an average electric bill of $100, that’s $24,000 paid into electricity during that same period. While this might not be the case for bulk, direct purchases like those by utilities and towns, it showcases the potential issue here.
Lastly, there it’s unclear the potential environmental effects this might have. Sitting several 100m+ generators, weights, and lines in the ocean can cause issues for fish and wildlife in the area, and it’s unclear how loud these might be.
Like many new and innovative technologies, there seems to be quite a number of potential issues here. However, they do have significant backing from the Department of Energy, and have already raised over $500,000 from investors, from a total goal of $3 million. This could mean many of these concerns aren’t what they seem, and they have managed to work through these issues.