SF's Underwater Wind Farm Would Cost Millions

By Matt Baume
|  Tuesday, Dec 28, 2010  |  Updated 1:15 PM PDT
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SF's Underwater Wind Farm Would Cost Millions

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A few years ago, Gavin Newsom made some noise about generating electricity underwater by installing an array of tidal generators under the Golden Gate Bridge. And apparently, he hasn't forgotten about the idea.

In a new interview, Newsom is once again pushing for wave-power programs that could start within 2 years. His new role as "Lite" Governor could make it easier to reach that goal, with a seat on a commissions and councils overseeing land use and the ocean.

A recent study showed that offshore wave farms could power tens of thousands of homes.

Initially, Newsom favored tidal power, but the latest initiative is all about waves instead. The generators would drift back and forth like seaweed, with the motion generating tiny amounts of current that add up to comprise a significant amount of electricity. At least, that's the theory.

The technology is still very young and highly experimental. Little is known about exactly how successful it will be, or how much it will cost. It could be around $130 million, according to a report. PG&E estimated that just installing the infrastructure would be about $50 million.

Estimates put the tidal power at around six times the cost of existing energy from PG&E. The wave power, in contrast, may be far cheaper. The latest guess -- and it's just a guess -- suggests that wave power would be slightly less expensive than solar. One major advantage is that there's less jostling for real estate at the bottom of the sea.

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