Aquamarine Power lands $17.4 million for wave energy tech

Scottish energy outfit Aquamarine Power has raised $17.4 million for its "Oyster" ocean technology. Can wave power gain traction in the U.S.?

Defying a strong cleantech funding undertow, Edinburgh, Scotland-based wave energy outfit Aquamarine Power said last week that it raised $17.4 million in new funding for its "Oyster" ocean technology.

If the name sounds familiar, that's because we wrote about the company's product in May . The Oyster uses a hinged flap that, moving with the waves, activates hydraulic pistons that drive a hydro-electric turbine located on-shore.

At the time, we asked: can it help successfully commercialize wave power?

Apparently, the investors at automation and power conglomerate ABB think so, adding $12.6 million to the pot. So do the folks at SSE Venture Capital, whose parent company has been working with Aquamarine Power to co-develop up to 1 gigawatt's worth of Oyster deployments.

(On deck: a 2-megawatt demonstration site planned for 2011.)

Wave power is a novel take on clean power generation ( read our wave power primer for the lowdown ), but it has yet to really gain the traction that solar and wind power have. The big hurdle? Scaling the technology to make a significant impact on the grid, all while keeping quality up and cost down.

But that hasn't stopped others who see potential in the sea.

Earth2Tech's Katie Fehrenbacher offers context:

Companies like Lockheed Martin, Wavebob and OpenHydro are working on technologies to capture energy from waves, tides, currents and the ocean’s thermal gradients on a scale that could eventually make the sea a major contributor to the nation’s clean energy supply. According to a report released last month by the research firm Emerging Energy Research, “The global ocean energy sector is at a turning point,” with more than 45 wave and tidal prototypes slated for ocean testing in 2010 and 2011, up from only nine tested last year.

Can wave power make a difference? It's still too early to judge. But with more than 12,000 miles of coastline, the U.S. is in a fine position to leverage its natural assets.

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