No Waves, No Problem For PowerBuoy

Remember when Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) deployed its autonomous PowerBuoy wave power generator off the coast of New Jersey last year? Well, according to OPT, the results are in, and the PowerBuoy has performed beyond its specifications, in a wide range of sea conditions—from dead-calm waters to hurricanes.

The PowerBuoy was commissioned as part of the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Expeditionary Autonomous PowerBuoy (LEAP) program. Historically, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S Navy have fueled their offshore radar and communications systems with diesel generators. But these power sources require frequent maintenance and refueling at sea. In 2010, LEAP awarded OPT $2.75 million to develop an alternative power supply for maritime security and monitoring equipment.

new Powerbuoy, Ocean Power Technologies

image via Ocean Power Technologies

The resulting LEAP PowerBuoy is smaller and more compact than OPT’s standard utility PowerBuoy, which has been deployed in Scotland and Hawaii (and is the centerpiece to the company’s big plans off the Oregon coast). It also includes an on-board energy storage system to provide reliable off-grid power in remote ocean locations.

Project specifications called for the PowerBuoy to deliver a continuous 150 watts; but OPT says the actual results exceeded their expectations. In addition to surviving Hurricane Irene, the PowerBuoy supplied a continuous 400 watts throughout its entire deployment, with a peak power delivery of 1,500 watts. Even during extended periods of zero wave activity, the PowerBuoy’s on-board power management and storage system enabled it to continue to supply constant power. And although it has only been deployed for six months at this point, the system has been engineered to require no maintenance for three years.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

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