The Pacific Ocean could soon be lighting up the beautiful city of San Francisco as a tidal-energy project planned for the waters near the Golden Gate Bride is now in the final stages of acquiring the necessary permits for implementation. The project, which has been in the works for over four years, will produce 10 to 30 megawatts of energy with the potential of up to 100 megawatts, and is anticipated to be the largest energy generator off the California Coast.
Currently, San Francisco officials are examining over 50 different types of wave devices currently under development to better understand what technology will best suit San Francisco’s waters. Impressively, the list is rife with options, ranging from “pitching” devices (Pelamis) and “over topping” devices (Wave Dragon) to oscillating water columns (OceanLinx) and “heaving” devices (Aquabuoy). Some of these devices are based on biomimicry principles, which imitate natural designs and processes (bioWave, WaveRoller), while others can even provide both wave power and desalination (CETO).
Given that the technology remains new — almost all of the existing designs remain prototypes or pilot projects — issues have arisen about not only the level of energy that can effectively be generated, but the cost as well. According to a 2008 study developed for the California Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative by infrastructure consulting firm Black and Veatch, wave and marine power generation within California specifically can run quite high, clocking in at as much as $445 per MWH and $410 per MWH, respectively. Alternatively, other renewables like wind, solid biomass, hydroelectric and geothermal have clean energy generation costs nearing $150 per MWH. The gap in price proves to be a sticking point with many individuals, even if the general sentiment for the tidal project is positive.
However, despite these challenges, San Francisco‘s mayor Gavin Newsom remains 100% committed to bringing this technology forward and increasing the city’s green-factor. As of late San Francisco has been making numerous strides in increasing its sustainability with some stellar initiatives including mandatory LEED certification for commercial rehabs, compulsory composting for residents, a new loan program for renewable power, energy-efficiency and water-conservation projects for homes and businesses, and sizable rebates for individual solar usage. These simple steps have turned out a reduction of greenhouse gases by 6% of the 1990 levels, and boosted solar generation by nearly five times. Factoring in the ocean-power project, San Francisco is surely becoming the model eco-city that others will strive to imitate.