Hawaii is giving the rest of America a friendly wave. And it's using this wave to generate electricity for the U.S. power grid for the first time. Scientists are currently just testing the waters with one tidal-powered generator, but if all goes swimmingly, then it might not be long until America finds more and more of its power being supplied by the ocean.
The machine responsible for turning tidal currents into electric currents is called Azura and was built by Northwest Energy Innovations (NWEI). The wave-powered generator will be placed off the island of Oahu, Hawaii, in Kaneohe Bay. The prototype was recently launched and installed so that many different researchers, including those from the University of Hawaii, can monitor its long-term performance and decide whether Azura is here to stay or not.
“Standards, rigorous testing, and transparency are the foundations of our development program for the Azura technology. We believe that independent verification of performance data is imperative to achieving commercialization,” assured Steve Kopf, NWEI founder and CEO.
The device can be seen in action in the video below. You can see how Azura moves with the motion of the ocean to maximize its energy usage. The rotating element, which powers a turbine to generate electricity, has been made as versatile as possible. It can create energy by either rotating a full 360 degrees or by oscillating in either direction. This makes it well-adapted to the ocean's wide range of personalities.
Northwest Energy Innovations Testing Facility animation.
The plans for Azura include testing and optimizing its performance at greater and greater depths. Azura has only been put through its paces in test berths that are 30 meters (100 feet) in depth; scientists are eager to start testing the device at 60 meters (200 feet) and even up to 80 meters (260 feet) in depth.
In 2010, it was estimated that around 39% of the total population of the U.S. lived near the coast – a figure only expected to increase. With this much of the population having easy access to tidal power, hopes are high that Azura will be up to the challenge of making substantial contributions to the nation's electricity requirements.