BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — A small technology company has received a preliminary permit to begin studying how waves off coastal Alaska can be harnessed to produce cheap energy there.
Officials of Resolute Marine Energy (RME), located in the business and industrial park, say they are developing technologies that produce clean energy from ocean waves.
Since its founding in 2007, it has received research and development funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Interior Minerals Management Service to build and test several wave energy converter prototypes that would be placed beneath the waves.
It is researching whether Alaska would be an appropriate setting for its technology, and to that end, it has received a permit for its Yakutat, Alaska, research from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Though much of its theoretical research is done here, company executives do not plan to attempt to test its hardware on the North Shore. It is examining coastal areas with more robust wave action — and more expensive energy costs.
Yakutat is located in a remote area that pays much to have fossil-energy sources transported to the community, company officials say.
Municipal leaders there are interested in RME’s technology because it would arguably produce cheaper energy with minimal transportation costs.
RME’s preliminary permit signifies a step forward, but it could be a couple years until tests are completed and hardware could be deployed.
Bill Staby, founder and CEO of RME, said in a statement the company’s initial goal is to “build and sell smaller-scale, wave-driven power solutions utilized in commercial applications including open-ocean aquaculture, seawater desalination and ocean observation systems.
“Our longer-term goal is to develop wave-energy converters appropriate for utility-scale, grid-connected electricity generation.
“This approval is an important milestone for RME,” added Staby, whose company employs about seven.
The project involves a 25-square-mile area within submerged lands off Yakutat, a remote community in the southeast portion of Alaska.
RME senior engineer and project manager Clifford Goudey said, “With this FERC approval we can begin the studies and the planning that are necessary to design the project and to prepare the needed application for a FERC license to operate.
“We need to characterize the wave resource in detail and engineer a system that will provide the most benefit to the community by alleviating its current dependence upon its diesel-powered generating plant.”
Goudey, who until recently was a member of the Newburyport Waterfront Trust, said that one challenge is to place the company’s hardware under the ocean’s waves but avoid inundation by masses of moving sand.
Planners must also ensure that wildlife is not threatened.
Municipal and energy officials in Alaska appear to be supportive of the potential energy source.
In a statement, Scott Newlun, general manager of Yakutat Power, said, “Today we’re totally at the mercy of the price of diesel fuel. We see a huge energy resource going to waste over on Cannon Beach and hope this project brings sustainable power to Yakutat and eases the cost of energy on our ratepayers.”
RME in recent months has carried out tests of its devices off the Outer Banks of North Carolina.