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Duo see more from waves than just great rides

Entrepreneurs test a wave-powered turbine near Newport Harbor's entrance, but they say using their generators for commercial purposes in the U.S. is far in the future.

December 31, 2011|By Mike Reicher
  • Green Wave Energy Corp. Chief Operating Officer David New left, and Chief Executive Mark Holmes show off their wave-powered generator, which is temporally tied to mooring in Newport Harbor. The device has propeller blades under the water that turn with the wave motion of the ocean and transfers energy to a generator rated at 5,000 watts at the top of the platform.
Green Wave Energy Corp. Chief Operating Officer David… (STEVEN GEORGES,…)

NEWPORT BEACH — Waves at The Wedge are legendary for hurling bodysurfers into the air and sweeping tourists off their feet.

But they also have a more practical purpose: producing electricity.

A pair of Newport Beach entrepreneurs have been testing a wave-powered turbine near Newport Harbor's entrance for the past couple years. They recently approached city officials to set up a more permanent prototype, possibly off one of the city piers.

But because of strict regulations and high costs, they say it will be a long time before their generators can be used for commercial purposes in the U.S.

Mark Holmes and David New, partners in Green Wave Energy Corp., design and build their renewable energy contraptions from the Basin Marine Ship Yard, near Harbor Island. Small wind turbines and solar-paneled light poles share space with fishing trawlers, sloops and power cruisers.

"It's like our laboratory. It's where we play," said Holmes, who cited the Archimedes principle about buoyancy to describe how the wave generator floats.

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Holmes, a lawyer in leather loafers, fumbled as he tied up a small support boat to the prototype, while New, who has been around boats his entire life, expertly maneuvered the mini-tugboat alongside the prototype moored nearby.

New's father opened Basin Marine in 1939, and David can lean on metal fabricators, nautical engineers and other contacts he has built over the years.

The pair met about 10 years ago when Holmes defended New in a lawsuit.

"I just come up with the weird ideas and Dave tells me if it's something we can build," Holmes said.

So far, they have tested the prototype about five times since 2009, heading about 200 yards offshore from The Wedge. Divers wrap a rope around a steel beam on a submerged shipwreck, they said.

The prototype generator is a roughly 20-foot long, 6-foot round fiberglass cylinder. It looks like a large vertical propane tank in the middle of a pontoon boat. While the pontoon platform is used to transport the test machine, the operating cylinders would float on their own.

The devices would be tethered to the bottom and each other in one long line of turbines perpendicular to incoming waves. Theoretically, the turbines would remain in place and wouldn't move with passing swells. As waves flow past the machine, water would rise and fall through the cylinder, turning the propeller.

A video on YouTube demonstrates the process.

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