The world’s largest defense contractor, U.S. Lockheed Martin Corp., better known for its military weaponry programs, is beginning to back renewable energy.
On 11 February the Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. announced that it had signed a contract to develop a 62.5-megawatt peak power wave energy generation project off Victoria, Australia, calling it a "significant step toward making ocean energy commercially available." The facility will be the world's largest wave energy project. Lockheed Martin's Mission Systems New Ventures office of and Training Baltimore signed the deal with Victorian Wave Partners Ltd. to develop the facility.
Lockheed Martin's Mission Systems and Training for business ocean energy director Tim Fuhr said, "We are applying our design and system integration expertise to commercialize promising, emerging alternative energy technologies, including ocean power."
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The Victoria project utilizes wave energy converter buoy developed by Ocean Power Technologies of Pennington, N.J. As the buoy moves up and down on waves, their kinetic energy turns an electrical generator, whose power is transmitted onshore via underwater cables.
The Victoria facility’s initial phase is projected to produce about 2.5-megawatt peak power but once complete, it is expected to produce enough energy to meet the needs of 10,000 homes.
Lockheed Martin will provide project management, design services for manufacturing the buoy technology, produce components of the buoys and perform system integration of the wave energy converters.
Nor is the Victoria project the only wave power enterprise in Australia.
The Bombora Wavepower Wave Energy Converter structure is a V-shaped system that sits on the sea bed near the shore at depths of between 17 and 50 feet. The arms channel the energy of waves as they move closer to shore and become concentrated into a smaller, more forceful column of water. Each arm of the V is inclined like a ramp, accentuating the elliptical motion of water particles to extract more energy from both the heave and surge motion of the wave. Using hi-tech, low cost materials, the Bombora Wavepower Wave Energy Converter is constructed with a simple, low-cost, lightweight flexible membrane with cells below that operate like a giant foot pump to generate power, since the wave’s passage over the membrane compresses the air in the device, which in turn generates air flow into a common manifold system to drive a turbine and generator. Bombora Wavepower believes that each system will be rated 1.5MWe, a similar output to the average size of most onshore wind turbines.
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Bombora Wavepower executive director Shawn Ryan says the company is seeking investment before starting trials in the Swan River “nursery” in the next six months and moving onto ocean trials, adding, “The largest energy resource are westerly facing coastal strips around the continents but the Bombora system can operate anywhere, including lower resource locations; wave power is a global resource.”
Globally, there are now more than 200 projects worldwide developing various forms of wave energy technology.
Why is a defense contractor behemoth like Lockheed Martin Corp. looking towards renewable energy? One possibility is the recent Defense Dept. budget cuts, but another is that wave power devices draw energy from the motion of ocean waves, which is more predictable and consistent than wind and solar sources, which cannot generate power 24/7, unlike tides and waves. Add to that the fact that the market is global, and that now 80% of humanity lives within 200 miles of the sea, and you have a future that is even brighter than defense contracts, especially if peace breaks out.
By John Daly of Oilprice.com