CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Inside an engineering lab at Oregon State University, researchers are testing what could be a revolution in renewable energy in Oregon.
It's a buoy that can generate electricity from the oceans waves.
"What we're seeing is that it's a very promising untapped technology," explained Annette VonJouanne, an Electrical Engineering Professor at OSU. "There's a tremendous amount of energy available in the world's oceans.
The massive buoy is the university's 11th try at building a wave energy device. In September, the researchers took the prototype out to sea and came back with exciting results.
"In all aspects it was a very successful test," said VonJouanne.
The buoy generates energy similar to how certain flashlights produces light. A magnet inside the device slides past a copper coil producing voltage.
Just imagine a thousand magnets inside the buoy being pushed up and down by the waves.
Researchers say so-called "wave energy parks" could some day power up to 35,000 homes and supply ten percent of Oregon's energy needs.
And because of the buoys relatively small size, the parks would take up only about one-third of one percent of the state's 600 square mile coast line leaving room for other ocean industries.
"We certainly are very aware the fishing and crabbing community is very strong off the Oregon coast so we want to insure we have minimal impact on that very successful industry," explain VonJouanne.
The researchers are even working with fisherman to determine which areas would least impact them. And they say they will l continue to work with fisherman as the technology is fine-tuned.
Columbia Power Technologies hopes to commercialize the wave energy buoys within the next three years.