Generating technologies for deriving electrical power from the ocean include tidal power, wave power, ocean thermal energy conversion, ocean currents, ocean winds and salinitygradients. Of these, the three most well-developed technologies are tidal power, wave power and ocean thermal energy conversion. Tidal power requires large tidal differences which, in the U.S., occur only inMaine and Alaska. Ocean thermal energy conversion is limited to tropical regions, such as Hawaii, and to a portion of the Atlantic coast. Wave energy has a more general application, with potentialalong the California coast. The western coastline has the highest wave potential in the U.S.; in California, the greatest potential is along the northern coast.
California has more than 1,200kilometers (745 miles) of coastline, and the combined average annual deep water wave power flux is over 37,000 megawatts (MW) of which an upper limit of about 20 percent could be converted into electricity.This is sufficient for about 23 percent of California's current electricity consumption. However, economics, environmental impacts, land-use and grid interconnection constraints will likely imposefurther limits to how much of the resource can be extracted. Although technology is still at a relatively immature pilot project stage, economic projections indicate that ocean energy could becomecost-competitive over the long-term.
Current Pilot Projects
In the spring of 2009, the Sonoma County Water District applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for three wave projectpreliminary permits. The projects will be located in state waters offshore Del Mar Landing (the northwestern portion of the county) and off Fort Ross further to the south. Each of the three projects wouldbegin as pilots in the two to five megawatt (MW) range, could potentially expand to commercial facilities in the 40-200 MW range, and would include substations, transmission lines, appurtenant...