MOTORING ACROSS THE PUGET Sound, Reenst Lesemann spots a yellow, barnacle-encrusted contraption bobbing on the wind-whipped waters off Seattle. Called the SeaRay, it’s the prototype of a device that Lesemann’s startup, Columbia Power Technologies, is betting can help transform wave energy from a long-running science experiment into the next renewable energy bonanza. “I have never seen a multibillion-dollar market where the customers are literally waiting on the technology,” says Lesemann, a former venture capitalist.
Indeed. A new government-sponsored study has found that the oceans surrounding the U.S. contain enough energy to potentially supply more than half the nation’s electricity demand. Even with the limits of today’s technology, scientists concluded, there’s sufficient recoverable energy offshore – some 1,170 terawatt-hours a year in all – to keep a third of the country humming. More energy crashes annually onto the West Coast, for instance, than California uses in a year.