Power Electronics

Cal Poly's Wave Energy Project Nets $750,000 Dept. of Energy Research Grant

Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo's Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy has been selected to receive a grant of up to $750,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to assess the feasibility of locating a National Wave Energy Test Facility in California (CalWave).

The Department of Energy intends to pick one site for a test facility. California is competing with Oregon and Washington and states on the Eastern seaboard to be selected. "The California coast is ripe for realizing the promise of ocean wave energy," said Sam Blakeslee, director of the Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy. "If responsibly developed, this clean and renewable energy source has the potential to connect power to millions of American homes and ensure California is competitive in the global race for renewable energy technologies. This is an exciting opportunity for our faculty and students from across a number of disciplines to be part of the unique Learn by Doing experience that is central to the institute and Cal Poly's mission."

Wave energy is an emerging renewable technology designed to convert energy from the ocean's waves into electricity for consumer use. The electricity would be transmitted ashore and distributed on existing land-based transmission lines. The California Energy Commission estimates the statewide wave energy generation potential to be 7,500MW, or about three and a half times the power produced by the recently retired San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station off the coast of Southern California. According to DOE, America's total wave-energy potential could account for as much as one-third of the United States' yearly power usage.

"California's 745 miles of coastline is an untapped renewable energy frontier," said Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, a member of the Institute's board. "CalWave has the potential to unleash a wave of energy innovation, compliment California's ambitious Renewables Portfolio Standard, green our energy portfolios, and create thousands of new jobs."

DOE has indicated its interest in cooperatively funding $25 million to $50 million, pending Congressional appropriations, in the expansion of wave-energy technologies through the establishment of a National Wave Energy Testing Facility. The initial grant awarded to Cal Poly, combined with other matching funds, will be used to research and determine which location along California's coast has the best potential to accelerate the development of a commercial ocean renewable energy industry by serving as the National Wave Energy Testing Facility.

If chosen, California would become an international leader in the development of this emerging clean energy technology.

Blakeslee will serve as principal investigator for the CalWave project, leading a team of industry, academic and national laboratory experts in wave energy originally brought together by California-based Pacific Marine Renewables. Blakeslee, a former California state senator, is a geophysicist, research scientist and strategic planner and holds a doctorate in geological sciences. He is the founding director of the institute, which aims to advance insight into complex issues by bringing together cross-disciplinary, problem solving thinkers at Cal Poly.

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