Are ocean waves America’s energy future?

At a Hawaii test site, the U.S. Navy is harnessing the power of ocean waves to produce electricity.

It’s part of the Navy’s effort to get 50 percent of its fuel from alternative, renewable sources by 2020. And some estimates suggest the technique eventually could meet a quarter of America’s energy needs and dramatically reduce the nation’s reliance on oil, gas and coal.

“When you think about all of the states that have water along their coasts … there’s quite a bit of wave-energy potential,” says Jose Zayas of the U.S. Energy Department, which helps fund the project. Zayas thinks the United States could get 20 to 28 percent of its energy needs from waves without encroaching on marine preserves or other sensitive waters.

For now, the Navy hopes the technology can power offshore fueling stations for the fleet and provide electricity to coastal communities around the world. Hawaiians definitely benefit. After the current travels through a kilometer-long undersea cable to a military base, it feeds into the state’s power grid.

Meanwhile, in California, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Calwave project also are working to convert ocean waves into electricity. Some of their cutting-edge projects sound more like science fiction.

And while these scientists focus on waves, still others look to capture “blue energy,” which is produced anywhere a river meets the sea.

This article draws on reports from the Associated Press.