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ERIE COUNTY, OH – Lake Energy: Wave Power

April 5, 2010

This is the first installment to introduce a series The Erie Wire will publish about the implementation of renewable energies in the county.

Oscillating water column collecting energy from incoming waves.

Erie County, Ohio: home to great Lake Erie, will undergo a structural shift for energy in the near future. It’s said that wind, bioenergy (methane), solar and biofuels will become an engine of the 21st century. Though, what types of energy can the area implement knowing the unique power of its environmental resources?

Wind Energy is considered to be an absolute for the area (and will be investigated further in following articles). First Solar, with an office in Toledo and facility in Perrysburg, is an international manufacturer of high powered panels and anchor a merit for sustainable products within Ohio. Bioenergy, in this case – capturing methane from a landfill, has only recently been taken seriously within Erie County as an alternative source of energy. Biofuels are used in Oberlin on a day-to-day basis, where it’s possible to convert your vehicle to biofuel and fill up in a gas station that’s transitioned to this fuel.  Though, no attention has been given to the possibilities of lake energy through wave power systems; in the form of armatures and oscillating water columns.

Wave Power: is the harnessing of surface waves to capture energy that is sent to a power grid, via cables. In 1987 Malcolm W. Browne of the NY Times covered the issue of wave power and found a lack of funding for U.S. wave power initiatives, while in Norway and other countries the idea of Oscillating Water Columns had already drawn attention and dollars.

Wave farm using armatures to collect energy.

Now, wave power is developed to include buoy armature systems being researched, exclusively, off the coast of Oregon at Oregon State University. Both systems deliver renewable energy technologies that, pragmatically, can be included to supply Erie County with industrial possibilities, job creation, resource management and ample wattage.

Again, in 2007, under efforts from journalists William Yardley and Erik Olsen of the NY Times, Wave Power experiments traveled from Oregon to gain national attention. Wherein, staff and graduate students launched an experimental armature buoy to the excitement of hopeful interested groups, who were shadowed by doubtful environmentalists and commercial fisherman.

Armatures systems are not unlike the shakeable flashlight used to power a battery. When a wave meets the buoy the force upward and downward creates a charge, which is then captured and stored.

An armature from a small DC fan motor. photo: Lucas Richardson - Wikimedia Commons

Lake Erie will, no doubt, cast shadows from disinterested parties to wave power development, and receive similar treatment to new developmental energy projects that might interfere with the common flow of things. But, inevitably the success of Erie County is contingent  to the transition of resourcing renewable energy – without the backbone of a traditional grid.

Therein, Wave Power needs four energies to exist: financing, innovation, weather and water. All four are available. Now what’s to be done?

Read more about the potential of Wave Power on Lake Erie in the next installment.

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