In addition to its abundant solar, wind and geothermal resources, the Pacific Northwest is also uniquely situated to capture the renewable energy of the ocean. Special buoys, turbines, and other technologies can capture the power of waves and tides and convert it into clean, pollution-free electricity. Like other renewable resources, both wave and tidal energy are variable in nature. Waves are produced by winds blowing across the surface of the ocean. However, because waves travel across the ocean, their arrival time at the wave power facility may be more predictable than wind. In contrast, tidal energy, which is driven by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun, is predictable centuries in advance.
The technologies needed to generate electricity from wave and tidal energy are at a nascent stage, but the first commercial projects are currently under development, including some in the Pacific Northwest. Like most emerging energy technologies, wave and tidal technologies are currently more expensive than traditional generating resources, but with further experience in the field, adequate R&D funding, and proactive public policy support, the costs of wave and tidal technologies are expected to follow the same rapid decrease in price that wind energy has experienced.