Beaver Island dives into wave energy research in local waters.

By Oliver Townsend Jun 16, 2024
Beaver Island takes early steps to test wave energy in its waters.pngOrginal image from: https://www.michiganpublic.org/environment-climate-change/2024-06-16/beaver-island-takes-early-steps-to-test-wave-energy-in-its-waters

Beaver Island, located in Lake Michigan, is taking innovative steps to test wave energy as a source of renewable energy in its waters. With approximately 600 year-round residents, the island currently relies on an underwater cable and diesel generators for electricity. However, the community has been actively exploring renewable energy options, including receiving Department of Energy grants in 2022 for identifying renewable energy opportunities and experimenting with community solar projects.

Wave Energy Conversion Project

A team from the University of Michigan is collaborating with Beaver Island residents to develop a wave energy converter that harnesses the power of the island’s waves to generate electricity. This technology uses the movement of the water to produce energy, and the research team is working on creating a prototype to install in the waters off the island. While the energy generated may not be substantial, the goal is to set a precedent for similar projects in remote coastal communities.

Challenges and Opportunities

Wave energy converters come in various models, from buoys to oscillating panels, each with its unique design challenges. The harsh environments in which these converters operate make them costly to develop and risky for investors. Despite these hurdles, the Great Lakes region, with its abundant wave energy resource, presents a promising testing ground for this technology.

Future Prospects

Experts working on wave energy conversion, like Professor Craig Hill from the University of Minnesota Duluth, believe that the Great Lakes region could play a significant role in advancing this technology. A major marine energy conference coming to the area this summer indicates a potential shift in the industry towards exploring wave energy in inland waters. The University of Michigan team aims to create a model with the Beaver Island project that could be replicated in other shoreline communities.

Community Engagement and Sustainability

The University of Michigan is investing $10,000 this summer to determine the best location for the wave energy project on Beaver Island. The team will showcase different wave energy converters at the island’s sustainability fair to engage with residents and gather feedback. By incorporating social and environmental factors into the project, researchers hope to create a sustainable energy solution that can benefit not only Beaver Island but other coastal communities as well.

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