Portland State receives $2 million federal grant to study ocean electrical generation


Credit: Portland State University

The U.S. Department of Energy has approved a $2 million, three-year grant to Portland State University engineering professor to study a novel method of generating electricity from ocean waves.

Jonathan Bird, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, will study the feasibility of using adjustable magnetic springs as part of prototype floating devices designed to capture wave energy. The oscillating springs would enable the devices to be smaller and less expensive than other methods that have been tried, cutting the cost.

“Nobody has figured out how to generate electricity from the sea in a cost-effective way,” Bird said. “Many of the companies that have developed large ocean generator devices have gone bankrupt.”

Bird will serve as the project’s principal investigator along with co-investigators from the Sandia National Laboratory, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and AquaHarmonics Inc., a start-up wave energy company based in Portland.

Bird and the owners of AquaHarmonics will design, manufacture and test scale models of the rotary and linear magnetic spring generating device. Initial testing will be completed in a wave tank at Oregon State University. If successful, further testing will be done on the open ocean, Bird said.


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