Anyone who looks out at the ocean may feel awed by the power apparent in every wave. That power has the potential to provide energy to land-based homes and businesses, as well as floating facilities and vessels at sea. But how can we transform the ocean’s energy into usable forms, such as electricity or desalinated water?
One way to harness the ocean’s energy is through a device called a wave energy converter, or WEC. To date, WEC designs have been generally centered on large, rigid bodies that float in the water and move relative to each other as waves roll past. These bodies typically absorb ocean wave energy and focus that energy into a centralized conversion mechanism, such as a rotary generator or hydraulic piston.
Now, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is exploring ways to significantly advance wave energy converter design and development. With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Water Power Technologies Office, NREL researchers are developing concepts in which many small energy converters can be aggregated to create a single structure. With this new approach to developing wave energy, the domain of distributed embedded energy converter technologies (DEEC-Tec) could help the promise of substantial renewable energy generation from ocean waves become a reality.
Why Distribute and Embed Multiple Energy Converters?
One of the most innovative elements of DEEC-Tec is its ability to create flexible ocean wave energy converters, sometimes known as flexWECs. These devices have inherently broad-banded ocean wave energy absorption and conversion characteristics, meaning they can harvest energy across a wide range of ocean wave heights and frequencies.
DEEC-Tec provides a new scope of possibilities for how ocean wave energy can be harvested and converted and how flexWEC designs could power a variety of end uses both on land (powering homes and businesses) and at sea (powering navigation buoys and marine vehicles). Some of these uses will support DOE’s Powering the Blue Economy™ initiative, which aims to advance marine renewable energy technologies, such as navigation buoys or autonomous underwater vehicles, to promote economic growth in industries such as aquaculture.
“Our goal with DEEC-Tec is to vastly broaden how we currently conceptualize and envision the use of ocean wave energy,” said NREL researcher Blake Boren, who has been studying wave energy converters for over 10 years. “There is a tremendous range of possibilities for how we can develop these DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converters, and we are accelerating that exploration process.”
How DEEC-Tec Moves Wave Energy Forward
DEEC-Tec concepts are assembled from many small energy converters that, together, form a structure that can undulate like a snake, stretch and bend like a sheet of fabric, or expand and contract like a balloon. As the overall structure bends, twists, and/or changes shape as the ocean waves roll past, each embedded energy converter can turn a portion of that ocean wave energy into electricity.
A flexWEC has several advantages:
- A broader spectrum of energy capture. With a wide range of movement and deformations available, DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converters absorb and convert ocean wave energy across a much broader range of wave conditions — both in terms of size and frequency — when compared with rigid-body converters.
- Mechanical redundancy. The ability to use many hundreds or thousands of distributed embedded energy converters can ensure that ocean energy conversion occurs even if one or more of those converters stops functioning.
- Resilience. The DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converter’s flexibility grants an inherent survival mechanism: the ability to ride out and absorb excessive, dangerous surges of energy from large storms and rough seas.
- Favorable materials. DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converters could be manufactured from recycled materials or simple polymers. These replace heavier, sometimes more expensive materials that have historically been used for wave energy converter development, such as steel or rare-earth elements needed for large permanent magnets. Moreover, existing mass-manufacturing techniques could be used for straightforward and cost-effective DEEC-Tec component fabrication.
- Easier installation. DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converters can be folded, deflated, or otherwise made compact for transport from a manufacturer to a deployment site. Likewise, for installation, they can be expanded to cover broad surface areas as needed. This would allow for robust energy capture with lower capital costs.
- Reduced maintenance schedules. Monitoring the relative performance of many small devices determines the need for DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converter maintenance throughout the structure. The inherent redundancy of the structure potentially translates to less frequent inspections and maintenance requirements.
- Near-continuous structural control. A DEEC-Tec-based wave energy converter is composed of numerous small transducers — mechanisms that convert one form of energy into another. Some of these can serve as simple electrical actuators, which can change the converter’s shape and movement in response to ocean wave conditions. This will allow for greater ocean wave energy harvesting and conversion control.
Bending to the Future
While there are many advantages to using DEEC-Tec in the research and development of ocean wave energy converters, there are still unknowns that need to be understood and addressed. To this end, NREL researchers are identifying the materials, structural designs, electronic systems, and manufacturing methods that could advance DEEC-Tec concepts for marine renewable energy. NREL’s work also includes DEEC-Tec subcomponent validation and codesign, computational models to simulate performance, and device proofs of concept for building and validation.
As part of this research, NREL is collaborating with outside institutions, such as the University of Colorado–Boulder, Netherlands-based energy company SBM Offshore, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories.
Learn more about NREL’s work on distributed embedded energy converter technologies.
Article and Images courtesy of the NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy.
Toyota is developing a small bZ electric crossover with… Suzuki?
The smallest electric vehicle under Toyota’s “Beyond Zero,” or bZ lineup, is under development. The small bZ electric crossover is reportedly being prepped in collaboration with Suzuki.
Toyota is finally waking up as the auto industry’s shift to electric vehicles heats up. Over the past several months, Toyota has revealed a series of innovations to help it catch up to EV leaders Tesla and BYD.
At a tech workshop in June, Toyota highlighted its next-gen EV batteries, enhanced design methods, and manufacturing upgrades as it aims to boost efficiency.
Toyota plans to launch new electric models with nearly 500 miles (800km) of range using advanced batteries in 2026. Last month, Toyota showed off its future EV production line, including Giga casting tech, self-propelled assembly lines, and robots transporting finished vehicles.
After accelerating its plans, Toyota aims to produce 600,000 EVs in 2025, tripling the 190,000 output expected in 2024.
By 2026, Toyota looks to sell 1.5 million EVs with ten new electric models, including small cars, SUVs, crossovers, luxury, and commercial. With just 0.26% of Toyota and Lexus sales being fully electric last year, the automaker has a big transition ahead.
We got our first look at Toyota’s new compact electric SUV last month in a video teaser posted on social media. Now, we are learning more about an even smaller separate model.
Toyota developing a small electric crossover with Suzuki
According to the Japanese news website Best Car, the small Toyota electric crossover will be jointly developed with Suzuki.
Although Suzuki isn’t known by any means as an EV leader, the company has a knack for building small cars.
Earlier this year, Suzuki revealed its first global electric vehicle concept, the eVX. It will show the concept off at the Japan Mobility show alongside a mini eWX wagon EV later this month.
Last year, Toyota and Suzuki deepened their partnership to develop compact electrified vehicles.
In May, we got our first look at a new mini-commercial electric van co-developed by Suzuki and Toyota. The companies teamed up to develop a new EV platform for a series of mini electric vans that will be on display at the Japan Auto Show starting October 26.
According to the new report, the small Toyota electric crossover will ride on the e-TNGA platform, the same one used for the bZ4X electric SUV. It’s expected to launch in 2025.
The bZ small crossover was first showcased during a briefing session in December 2021 alongside 15 other EV models, including a pickup, sedan, sports EV, compact cruiser, large SUV, and several other Lexus and Toyota concepts.
Genesis shares 2024 GV60 pricing, including cheaper RWD trim with ~50 miles more range
Genesis USA has just shared pricing and packaging for the 2024 model year of its GV60 SUV. In addition to new standard features, the luxury sub-brand of Hyundai Motor Group has introduced a new rear wheel drive (RWD) that offers nearly 50 miles more range than the 2023 EV models at a significantly lower MSRP.
The GV60 is an all-electric crossover first introduced by Genesis in the summer of 2021 and was really a kicking off point for the luxury automaker on its journey to end all new combustion models by 2025 and be entirely electric by 2030.
In May of 2022, Genesis delivered its very first GV60 to a customer in California, the first state it sold the BEV in. Throughout 2022, we saw Genesis expand the availability of the crossover to new markets in the US, and Electrek’s Seth Weintraub even got a chance to test it out for himself.
This past May, Genesis introduced biometric technology to the GV60 called Face Connect, allowing owners to access and start their BEVs using their face alone without the need for a smartphone or key fob. Today, we learned that Face Connect is one of several features that come standard on some of the new trims of the 2024 GV60 models, in addition to an enticing new RWD variant.
Genesis shares 2024 GV60 with better pricing, features
According to details from Genesis USA today, the star of the show for the 2024 GV60 model year appears to be the new RWD variant. Starting at an MSRP of $52,000, this trim features a 168 kW rear motor that offers 294 miles of range (non-EPA).
For comparison, the higher range Advanced AWD trim of the 2023 GV60 offered 248 miles of EPA estimated range. For 2024, the RWD GV60 garners 46 extra miles, or a 19% increase. In addition to the new, more affordable RWD trim, Genesis is introducing a slew of new features that will now come standard on the 2024 GV60 models, including WiFi hotspot capability, Genesis Digital Key 2, Highway Driving Assist II, and Advanced Forward Collision Avoidance-Assist.
The aforementioned Face Connect biometrics also come standard on all 2024 trims. Here’s how the pricing breaks down and how it compares to last year’s GV60 models:
|2024 GV60 Trim||MSRP*||2023 GV60 Trim||MSRP*||Price Difference|
|Advanced AWD||$60,550||Advanced AWD||$59,290||+$1,260|
|Performance AWD||$69,550||Performance AWD||$68,290||+$1,260|
Genesis shared that that the 2024 RWD and Advanced AWD versions of the GV60 are available at select retailers around the US, in the 23 states the automaker currently sells the BEV. The availability of the Performance AWD version will be announced at a later date.
Virginia is about to get a big 772 MW solar boost
Dominion Energy Virginia today proposed more than a dozen new solar projects that will power nearly 200,000 Virginia homes at peak output.
A lot of new solar for Virginia
If the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) approves the proposed solar projects, they’ll generate 772 megawatts (MW) of clean energy for Dominion Energy Virginia’s customers.
Dominion Energy Virginia is the state’s largest utility company, and it serves the most densely populated metropolitan areas such as Richmond, Charlottesville, and northern Virginia. It wants to build six solar projects totaling 337 MW that it will own or acquire:
|Alberta Solar||3 MW||Brunswick County|
|Beldale Solar||57 MW||Powhatan County|
|Blue Ridge Solar||95 MW||Pittsylvania County|
|Bookers Mill Solar||127 MW||Richmond County|
|Michaux Solar||50 MW||Henry & Pittsylvania Counties|
|Peppertown Solar||5 MW||Hanover County|
Dominion’s proposal also includes 13 power purchase agreements (PPAs) totaling 435 MW with independently owned solar projects. It selected the PPAs through a competitive solicitation process.
Construction of the projects will support more than 1,600 jobs and generate more than $570 million in economic benefits across the state.
In addition to SCC approval, the utility-owned projects require local and state permits before construction can begin. If approved, construction is expected to be complete between 2024 and 2026.
Dominion Energy’s solar fleet is currently the second-largest in the US. If the new projects proposed today are taken into account, Dominion’s solar capacity in Virginia will surpass 4.6 GW – enough to power more than 1.1 million homes at peak output. (For context, Virginia’s population is 8.64 million, and Dominion Energy Virginia supplies more than 2.5 million homes and businesses with power.) Dominion Energy says it’s committed to net zero by 2050 (wish that target was sooner).
This is welcome news for a state that’s heavily dependent on natural gas, which makes up 57% of Virginia’s total electricity net generation.
Virginia currently has enough solar to power 519,386 homes, or 4,393 MW, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). So it’s not doing too shabbily, as it’s currently ranked 10th in the US by the SEIA for the amount of solar installed.
But there’s a whole lot of room for improvement, as it needs to ditch the natural gas. So this 772 MW of new solar is a welcome boost for the state’s clean energy. Seeing how Virginia is expected to add 6.72 GW of new solar in the next five years, it looks like it’s headed in the right direction.
Photo: Dominion Energy Virginia
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