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Harnessing the power of wavesSan Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom believes tapping into tidal and wave power is a swell idea. But how feasible and realistic is this new renewable-energy technology? CNET News.com's Kara Tsuboi sits down with the mayor to find out.
^M00:00:00 [ Music ] >> We are now looking at harnessing Mother Nature in a very substenant and significant way. >> San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is referring to two renewable energy programs the city is exploring that would tap into the power of the ocean. >> This is not science fiction. This is not Discovery Channel. >> The first is wave power. >> These wave energy platforms exist around the world. So this one truly isn't rocket science. It's just gonna require some subsidized costs to be invested up front, and to demonstrate a capacity to do it again on a scale where we can really take advantage of the entire coast. >> Proposed off the city's ocean beach, the feasibility of this project is currently under review. >> So I don't care what the study says. I just want the study to direct us in a better way. >> And even if the reports are negative? >> It just gets us to think a little differently so we can act a little differently. I want to use that information just to make us make a better bad decision, based upon what our critics believe. But a better decision based upon what our supporters believe.. >> Pacific gas and electric company has already backed a pilot program that could potentially provide two megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1500 homes. >> The vision ultimately being replacing all the polluting oil platforms off the coast of California with green wave-generating energy platforms. >> The second program under review is tidal power. >> Just unbelievable, untapped energy that comes in. It's like a toilet bowl. Every single day it sort of flushes in and flushes out. >> Mayor Newsom is referring to a site 600 meters east of the Golden Gate Bridge that could one day house a tidal power device. >> This is very similar to wind turbines, except it's underwater. And because water is so much denser than wind, the devices don't have to be as large as the large-scale wind devices. So world-class tidal current is about four or five knots. And we've got about two to two and a half knots under the Golden Gate Bridge. >> This limited size of tidal power, and the overall expense of the device is why a newly released feasibility study does not recommend the city move forward with the tidal power project just yet. >> We were hoping that there would be more potential there. >> Mayor Newsome, however, is undeterred. >> [inaudible] something else 'cause it's brand new technology. Never been done. It's never been scaled commercially in North America. And so it's just like solar. Until you bring it to scale, these new technologies are always going to cost more. >> By the year 2012, San Francisco has set some audacious goals for its renewable energy programs. >> Well, our peak power usage in San Francisco is about 950 megawatts. And so we're looking at 50 megawatts of that only coming from renewables. And that's gonna be a big target, a big goal for us to reach. >> If we believe in energy independence -- and I do -- as the paramount foreign policy for this country, rather than subsidizing failed wars overseas -- billions and billions of dollars. I'd rather see us subsidizing more enlightened policies for alternative sources of fuel and energy. >> I'm Kara Tsuboi, CNET News.com. ^M00:03:07 [ Music ]