WASHINGTON – Representatives from companies generating energy from ocean waves,the sun and hydrogen shared their progress Wednesday during a hearing before the Senate subcommittee on technology,innovation and competitiveness.
Sen. John Ensign,R-Nev.,the subcommittee chair,said that adopting energy alternatives is crucial,as nearly 60 percent of current domestic oil supplies are imported and approximately half of imports come from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
“While these technologies are not the only alternative energy products being developed,they offer us examples of the progress that has already been made and can be made in the energy field in the future,” Ensign said. “Oil supply disruptions pose a threat to our economy and national security.”
George W. Taylor,chief executive officer for New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies,said it would take only 0.2 percent of energy stored in the ocean to provide electricity worldwide. He said wave energy deserves similar investment from the federal government as other energy alternatives have enjoyed,such as wind or solar technology.
“The cost of wave-generated energy has the potential – with the proper investment – to approach that of conventional energy in the next five years,” Taylor said.
The company derives energy from buoys that generate power as they bob up and down. A project near Atlantic City,N.J.,partly funded by the state's utility board,began generating power last year.
Tom Werner,chief executive officer for San Jose,Calif.-based SunPower Corp.,said solar energy is “poised to become a mainstream energy resource for the United States within a decade.”
Witnesses also shared developments in transportation alternatives.
Frank Preli,vice president of energy at UTC Power,a division of Hartford,Conn.-based United Technologies Corp.,said that hydrogen fuel cells are available today for buses. He said fuel cells for cars and trucks “are a decade away.”
“They represent the most demanding application in terms of cost,packaging and infrastructure,” he said.
Alan Gotcher,president of Nevada-based Altair Nanotechnologies,said his company has developed lithium batteries that could replace the internal combustion engine. He said his company's battery fuel cells could power a five-passenger vehicle for up to 350 miles per charge and recharge in less than eight minutes.
Gotcher said the batteries have a life cycle of up to 15 years.
“Typically,they're limited from 500 to as many as 900 cycles,” he said. “Our batteries have been tested in our facilities and third-party facilities and contain up to 9,000 cycles.”
Sen. Byron Dorgan,D-N.D.,said that more resources need to be devoted to developing new energy technology.
“We stick little straws in the earth in various places and suck 84 million barrels a day out of this planet. We use 21 million barrels in this country.” Dorgan said. “We need to find a way to convert.”
Ensign asked the companies to get back to him with more information.
“You could start playing with these developing technologies and really become energy efficient,” Ensign said.