Sacramento - The California surf, celebrated in song by the Beach Boys, has caught the fancy of a unique sort of beach denizens - scientists at San Diego State University (SDSU).
A team of ocean energy experts from around the country, led by a professor of mechanical engineering at SDSU, will soon descend on California's beaches, not to catch a wave, but to study the feasibility of using ocean swells as a potential source of renewable energy.
To assist Professor Asfaw Beyene and his team in their unusual surfing safari, the California Energy Commission has awarded the university $120,000. The award comes from the Commission's Public Interest Energy Research Program (PIER) under its goal of advancing science and technology in the area of renewable energy.
With the PIER funding, Beyene and his crew will determine just how much electricity could be produced along the state's 1,100-mile coastline, the likely costs of generating ocean-based electricity, and environmental issues that may be tied to developing ocean wave energy systems. Their goal is to get a fix of the best places to deploy ocean wave energy systems off the California coast.
An assessment by the Pacific Gas & Electric Company in 1991 indicated a possible 23,000 megawatts of electricity was contained in the waves off PG&E's service territory along California's north coast. How much wave energy can feasibly be developed will be determined by the SDSU study.
(A megawatt is enough electricity to power 1,000 average California homes simultaneously.)
The SDSU scientists will reevaluate these estimates while performing the project's other technical and economic objectives. These include the compilation of a database of wave characteristics, and the identification of critical factors to the development of wave energy, including the commercial status of wave-to-energy technology that is currently available.
The idea is to pinpoint the likelihood, benefits and impacts of developing ocean wave energy before investing public and private funds in such a venture.