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Paddling For Renewable Energy On The OBX

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' pier near Duck, NC.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

A renewable energy company says it's testing a prototype that could produce energy from ocean waves near the Outer Banks. 

Boston-based Resolute Marine Energy says it tested the equipment for two months off the coast of Duck this winter.  Engineer Cliff Goudey says the device has a large piece of fiberglass that waves back and forth like a barn door.

"It sits out on the bottom offshore just outside the breaking wave zone," Goudey says.

"It pivots back and forth from shore to sea and captures the surge energy of the waves as they pass overhead."

Goudey says it captured about 30 percent of the waves' energy.  A series of the devices could generate 10 megawatts of electricity or enough to power about 1,000 homes.  Goudey says they could also help coastal communities pay less for beach re-nourishment projects.

"If you're removing 30 percent of the energy from waves coming in, you're obviously going to have an effect shore-ward of that," he says.

"So in areas where there's high erosion, you could argue that any amount of energy you can take out of those waves will have a positive effect on the people that worry about losing their shore."

The company says it still has to redesign a flaw in the device's hinges.  It's also testing the paddle off the coast of Alaska, where residents pay five to six times as much for electricity than in North Carolina.

Will Michaels is WUNC's General Assignment Reporter and fill-in host for "Morning Edition"
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