, Newburyport, MA

January 19, 2012

Harnessing the waves

Port company developing device to convert ocean energy to electricity

By Dyke Hendrickson
Staff Writer

NEWBURYPORT — A local startup company that is attempting to turn the power of waves into energy is considering launching its first pilot project this summer in Nantucket.

Resolute Marine Energy, located at the Clean Tech Center in Newburyport, yesterday hosted several state officials to demonstrate its technology.

Those present included Jeffrey Simon, director of the Massachusetts Recovery and Reinvestment Office.

RME officials said they have benefited from a $1 million grant through the Department of Energy.

P. William Staby, founder and CEO of the young firm, said the company has hired 10 full- and part-time employees and has purchased goods from close to two dozen companies in Massachusetts as it moves forward in developing what it calls its wave-energy converter (WEC) prototype.

Staby said that his team is still gathering data to prove that its technology has commercial value, and he indicated that a successful deployment would involve capturing energy from waves and transmitting it to homes and/or a community nearby.

Staby said that the first "live" trials could take place this summer.

Nantucket has tentatively been chosen, in part because the UMass — Dartmouth, is providing logistical assistance for research, he said.

"We're pleased the way our research has been going, and we are developing this so it has a commercial use," Staby said.

"This is capturing the energy of the waves, and there is a great potential here," he added.

RME's million-dollar grant is helping the company conduct research activities designed to verify and optimize the performance of its patent-pending SurgeWEC technology.

RME recently announced it had successfully completed limited trials of its prototype on the coast of North Carolina. That state was chosen in part because research authorities there provided logistical support.

RME officials say their prototype is "a near-shore, surge-type wave energy converter that is mounted on the sea floor just outside the surf zone and captures energy from waves that pass overhead."

A (future) commercial use might include deployment of units, perhaps 8 feet wide and 8 feet tall, lined up beneath the breaking waves.

The movement of the waves would stimulate paddles on the units to go back and forth, capturing energy. The energy would have to be converted from hydraulic to electrical, and then that energy, when transferred, could serve local homes or communities.

There are numerous issues ahead for the company, including acquiring patents, addressing environmental concerns and developing its prototype so that commercial developers would take a financial interest.

But the company is in startup mode, and officials say the research has been encouraging.

RME's Cliff Goudey, a senior engineer, said, "We learned a lot about the behavior of our WEC in real-world conditions (in North Carolina), and now, we'll move on to the next design iteration and ocean trials in what we hope will be a pre-commercial context."