The future of wave power technology

The prospect of wave power joining the future renewable energy mix moves forward as the leading entrant recently completed pilot testing of its technology.

CalWave Power Technologies, Inc. of Oakland, Calif., said Sept. 1 that a submersible device it designed to generate electricity from ocean waves has demonstrated strong viability during a 10-month deployment in waters off the coast of San Diego.

Using the company’s patented xWave technology, the device generates power and data that is transmitted via an undersea cable to the nearby Scripps Institution of Oceanography research terminal. Preliminary test results confirmed many key aspects of the design, including demonstrating high uptime, ability to withstand high waves, autonomous operation, corrosion resistance and safety. Data from the test will be further analyzed, but the company said the pilot showed its system effectively overcome key challenges of performance, reliability, survivability and cost.

The device, dubbed the x1, is now retired and provides engineers with valuable information, CalWave’s next mission is to build a 100kW version for deployment at a groundbreaking wave energy test facility under construction off the coast of Oregon. Its technology will join those of other developers at PacWave South, the first commercial-scale, fully-permitted grid-connected wave energy proving ground in the United States, which will operate in the Pacific Ocean, 7 miles southwest of Newport, Oregon. Developed by Oregon State University, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the State of Oregon, the $80 million project is designed to facilitate simultaneous research on multiple wave power concepts and provide developers with a faster path to test their designs.

PacWave South is slowly taking shape, with construction commencing in June 2021, with extensive underground work involving the laying of pipes to be completed in early 2022. According to the latest project timeline from PacWave associate director Dan Hellin, there are no tests starting earlier than 2024.

“We are currently engaging a company to set up our Surface Utility Connection and Monitoring Facility (UCMF),” Hellin said. “The contract has not been awarded yet, but this should happen in the next few months. Work on this will likely start later this year and continue through most of 2023.

“Another major part of the project is the supply and installation of the submarine cable. We are contracting for this work and the submarine cable is expected to be installed in 2024. This will allow us to start grid-connection testing in 2025. Non-grid-connected Testing may begin before then, as those devices will be smaller and can be deployed without interfering with cable-laying operations.”

Meanwhile, CalWave and other technology developers that have received DOE funding to advance wave energy production will work on designs for eventual deployment of PacWave. CalWave received broad DOE support in 2017 for its recently completed San Diego test, and in January received $7.5 million from DOE to further develop xWave technology for local energy grids and microgrids, part of which will be Funding for its PacWave project.

DOE has deepened its interest in wave energy as part of its promotion of exploring expanded renewable energy concepts. It says wave energy is abundant and unique, with a high degree of predictability, opening the door to developments that may be located near load centres. It said it could meet up to 30 percent of the West Coast’s electricity needs if only one-third of the available wave energy was developed near Pacific states. In reality, however, wave energy production of any consequence could take decades. However, the starting gun in the pragmatic method race seems to have been fired.

Tom Zind is a freelance writer based in Lees Summit, Missouri. He can be reached at

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