What if the ocean waves you dive though on a hot day, could actually power your home? They could, and some of the technology already exists, but it’s considered to be relatively young.
In Carderock, Maryland, teams of engineers are coming from all over the country to test newer and more advanced wave energy conversion (WEC) devices.
They’re testing it inside a place few people are allowed to see: the hydrodynamic facilities at the Naval Surface Warfare Center. It’s called the Maneuvering and Sea Keeping Basin, but the people work with it simply know it as “the MASK.”
On the surface, it seems to be a gigantic indoor swimming pool.
It’s 360 feet long by 240 feet wide, and anywhere from 20 to 35 feet deep.
With the push of a button, the MASK can fill with waves so extreme an experienced captain would struggle to navigate through it.
Miguel Quintero, an Ocean Engineer at Carderock, said the MASK can model any type of waves from any part of the world.
"Be it in the Atlantic Ocean [or the] Pacific [Ocean],” he said. “We can model it.”
With the click of a button, the engineers can create a calm day in the ocean or a typhoon.
"There's 216 paddles on a curve. You will see the wave surface move and we can make what we call a bullseye wave or a singularity wave where you can see one large wave in the tank,” Quintero said.
Most days, engineers use the MASK to test submarines and ships, and Quintero said the main goal is “to make sure [naval ships] are safe, and the vessel and the personnel survive all their [weather] conditions.”
Today, the MASK is producing energy for a tiny, yellow machine.
It’s a machine created by one of nine teams working to create bigger, better WEC devices and win a $2 million prize.
It's part of a competition sponsored by the Department of Energy.
They’re interested in making wave energy “more competitive with traditional energy solutions” and see it as an “untapped renewable resource.”
Jose Zayas, the director of the Department’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, said “waves, tides, and ocean currents could provide clean, affordable energy to homes and businesses across the country.”
Seven teams have already completed their tests. The winner will be announced in November.