2018 Showcase Recap: Pacific Marine Energy Center

Guest Contributor: Andrew Braddock, Washington State University

The Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC) convenes some of the best minds working to cost-effectively harness energy from the ocean. The technologies they are developing and supporting convert power from waves, temperature, tide, and the most developed technology, off-shore wind.

Brian Polagye, director of the center and University of Washington professor, presented PMEC’s work at the 2018 CleanTech Innovation Showcase on June 25 in Seattle. The organization focuses on three areas: testing, research & development, and educational programs. All of these areas are combined as they collaborate with their higher education partners at Oregon State University, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the lead institution, the University of Washington.

A number of companies have tried to harness marine energy for sustainable power, but many have been unable to compete with existing energy sources. The main challenge the companies have faced is converting marine power to the grid. Unfortunately, the cost of power from these technologies remains higher than the prices offered from other energy sources.

However, it is not to say that marine energy cannot be harnessed efficiently. PMEC have turned their attention to remote communities that are off the grid, where power and fuel is not so cheap and easy to attain.

For one small remote community in Alaska, their entire power structure is fueled by diesel, which is brought in weekly by a large plane. This is the type of community that has the potential to harness marine energy, as PMEC technologies will be competing against diesel being flown in, instead of competing against natural gas-sourced power on the grid. PMEC calls these ‘maritime markets’ – markets where marine energy holds advantages over more conventional forms of power.

At PMEC, most of their research has been focused on climate change mitigation, and wanting to maximize generation from available resources.  They remain focused on maritime markets, while researchers from their university partners collaborate with stakeholders, device developers, and government officials to address key challenges in marine technology.

For more Showcase recaps, click here.