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Waste, Water and Waves

As a result of the delay and unwillingness of the government to fund projects and studies related to future renewable energy technology, many have taken matters into their own hands.

Granted, in some way or another, the government has had a role in the processes, but the primary force at work is an individual or group of individuals. As usual, these projects have taken time to come to fruition, but the team members have been committed and ultimately discovered possible components to a powerful renewable energy system in the United States.

In Portland, Oregon, Ocean Powered Technologies (OPT), a New Jersey company, is planning to launch the first commercially licensed grid-connected wave-energy device in the nation. Despite being a mouthful to say, the name of the device explains it perfectly. The device harnesses the power of waves in predetermined locations that are likely to produce the best waves without infringing on fishing, crabbing and other marine uses, and turns the waves into energy. That energy then goes to the grid and is accessible on the shore and into land. If the planned launch in October goes as planned and the device works, a completely new area of energy will be made available, and will aide in the attempts to wean the country off of dirty, dangerous energy sources.

A team led by Hong Liu from Oregon State University in Corvallis has come up with a way to conserve the amount of energy used in treating waste water, and maybe even produce energy and materials from the by-products. By using microbial fuel cells, energy will be reclaimed from treating waste water and produce twice the amount of electrical power from current cells. Further, the by-products of waste water, notably methane, could be harnessed and used to make biodegradable plastics.

The goal for the team is to scale up production and lower the cost of the device within the next five years, situating it for good timing to contribute to a renewable energy system.

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