Wave power seeks role in New Jersey renewable energy shift
TRENTON – Advocates for wave power are trying to make a case to be included along solar and wind technologies as part of New Jersey’s clean energy future.
An Assembly committee held a hearing on the subject last week and were told that power derived from waves and ocean currents can be an economic and environmental help but gets little more than a passing mention in New Jersey’s energy master plan.
Patty Cronheim, campaigns director for the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, said wave power isn’t likely to rival wind and solar power but can be a complementary energy source – and that advances in technology are getting close to making it cost-effective.
“And I’ll tell you as a surfer and dangling my feet in the water, I can tell you the ocean is always moving,” Cronhim said. “Even on the flattest of days, it is a perpetual motion machine.”
Cronheim said wave power is expected to have more potential on the West Coast though still be helpful in the Northeast, especially farther offshore. But she said state lawmakers haven’t done anything to spur the use of wave power since 2007.
Philipp Stratmann, president and chief executive officer of Monroe Township-based Ocean Power Technologies, said there are ways New Jersey could encourage startups, like improving permitting processes and developing university partnerships.
“Despite substantial ocean shoreline, New Jersey has no ocean or blue-tech centers and no central hub where ocean tech experts can coalesce and share ideas,” Stratmann said.
Stratmann said those exist in Boston, San Diego, Houston and Gulfport, Mississippi – and would make sense in the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth.
“It has no ocean technology-focused cluster that is a visage there, yet it has direct access to the Shrewsbury River and directly across that to the Atlantic Ocean,” he said.
Inna Braverman, co-founder and chief executive officer of Eco Wave Power, said wave power has amazing potential in New Jersey, given the state’s extensive shoreline and goal to transition to fully renewable sources of energy by 2050.
“The power is much more stable than power or wind,” Braverman said. “Solar is only available during the day. Wind is available early in the morning and late at night, not necessarily when the population is using it. Wave energy in suitable locations like New Jersey can operate around the clock.”
Nationwide, it is estimated that wave power has the capacity to provide nearly two-thirds of the United States’ current energy needs.
Muhammad Hajj, chair of the civil, environmental and ocean engineering department at the Stevens Institute of Technology, said 1 meter of waves could power a household for a whole year. He said wind and solar power have become inexpensive and that wave power must do the same to compete.
“And it can be done through innovation, through time, through investing. It can be done,” Hajj said. “That’s how wind and solar – they started very expensive, and now they became very cheap. That’s how we need to do it.”