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Flipping the switch on dirty power in B.C.’s coastal communities

Ocean waves have massive potential for energy production

Living off-the-grid in one of B.C.’s 50 remote coastal communities is often associated with enjoying a green, eco-friendly lifestyle in tune with nature. In reality, many of these communities rely on diesel fuel for power generation—a significant source of carbon and a dangerous spill risk.

Brad Buckham, a mechanical engineer and leader of UVic’s new Pacific Regional Institute for Marine Energy Discovery (PRIMED), hopes to wean coastal communities off diesel by effectively harnessing the power of B.C.’s greatest asset: the Pacific Ocean.

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Locked within each ocean wave is a massive potential for energy production. According to Buckham, every metre of wave crest on B.C.’s coast could produce 30 kilowatts of electricity—enough juice to power 15 homes with every light, appliance and device on full blast.

But marine energy is not a new concept. B.C. has refined and exploited the technology for over 50 years. The trick and the key role of PRIMED, Buckham says, is to create innovative solutions to align wave energy supply and demand and deliver electricity where and when it’s needed.

“Energy storage, batteries for example, must hold and control delivery at the same time. This step adds cost and technical risk,” says Buckham. In order to efficiently use the technology and avoid expensive mistakes, communities need to get the infrastructure right. PRIMED’s key focus is to create efficient models by comparing community energy usage with local wave energy data collected by sophisticated bouys.

Armed with this data, B.C.’s coastal communities can more confidently ditch diesel in favour of the clean power generated in their backyards.

PRIMED’s initial findings are expected to be released in summer 2018. To learn more, visit: uvic.ca.

Quick Facts

  • Funding of $1,498,000 shared between Government of Canada, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and Seaspan will help support PRIMED’s workspace, computational service platform and delivery of services.
  • Around 190 tidal power sites have been identified off Canada’s coasts with a total estimated capacity of 42,000 MW (total mean annual wave power)—more than 63 per cent of the country’s annual total consumption.

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