Can ocean's power be harnessed? Buoy tests aim to find out

Can ocean's power be harnessed? Buoy tests aim to find out »Play Video

CORVALLIS, Ore. - In a water laboratory at Oregon State University, all eyes are fixed on a small, yellow buoy.

 

But inside that relatively small device, engineers are hoping for some big results out of this buoy - results about whether the power of the ocean could be harnessed as energy.

With each toss and turn of the buoy inside OSU's simulated wave machine, a generator inside the machine is turned and "clean" energy is produced.

The Corvallis-based company that developed the technology - Columbia Power Technologies - says this test confirms that they are ready to make a full-scale device. 

While this initial test buoy is in miniature form, the real buoy would measure 80-feet in diameter and stand 8-stories tall. 

And this test allows OSU to study the environmental impacts that harnessing ocean power may have. 

"We're excited about the technology because we believe it could lead to part of our energy independence," said Bob Paasch of OSU. "But we also want to know what the problems are."

But while some are seeing the buoy tests as a force for good, commercial crab fishermen are concerned about the effect wave energy buoys will have on ocean life and about the loss of crab fishing to wave farms.

Developers say that these tests mean Oregon's first wave farm could be just four or five years away.