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Sandia National Laboratories and the U.S. Navy are working on maximizing the power output of wave energy devices.

Video courtesy of the Department of Energy

Inside one of the most advanced wave-making facilities in the world, researchers from Sandia National Laboratories are calling on the U.S. Navy to help improve the efficiency of wave energy devices.

If successful, this technology could one day power millions of U.S. homes, businesses, remote communities, and even military bases by harnessing the awesome energy potential of ocean waves.

Wave Energy Conversion Testing

Sandia is studying the advanced control system of a 1-ton wave energy converter (WEC) at the Navy’s Maneuvering and Seakeeping (MASK) Basin in Bethesda, Maryland. The facility is unlike any other in the world and is normally used to test prototype ships and submarines. Now, it’s being called on to accelerate wave energy research by hitting Sandia’s device with an assortment of waves. The goal is to find different ways of controlling the converter to maximize its power output and lower costs.

In the future, larger WECs could provide reliable power to the electric grid and even provide energy to offshore naval bases.

The MASK Basin

The Navy’s MASK Basin is the perfect place to accelerate Sandia’s research. The facility is 360 feet long, 240 feet wide, and has a state-of-the-art wave maker that is capable of making precise waves for hours. This allows researchers to quickly test the converter’s control systems under numerous wave conditions and see the response. 

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Take a 360° tour of the MASK Basin

Video courtesy of the Department of Energy

The basin is no stranger to wave energy research. The facility’s ocean engineers built a dedicated structure specifically for WEC device testing and hosted the Energy Department’s Wave Energy Prize competition. The competition resulted in four teams meeting the public prize challenge’s goal of doubling the performance potential of wave energy devices, with one team making a five-fold improvement.  

Why Wave Energy?

Wave energy is still a novel technology despite being around for more than four decades. But that could change with the Energy Department building its own open-water wave energy testing facility in Newport, Oregon. The new facility will be able to test up to 20 WEC devices at once and deliver up to 20 megawatts of renewable energy to the grid.

Wave energy has tremendous potential to support our nation’s power needs and comes with numerous benefits. It’s predictable, compliments other renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and is located close to population centers—cutting down on expensive transmission infrastructure.

Learn more about our work with wave energy.