A 1/7th -scale prototype, code named SeaRay, is currently being tested in the water near Seattle; the sea test should be complete by summer of 2011. According to Hettick, a full-scale design will be complete by the end of 2011 and the buoy will be tested and confirmed available for utility grid connection in 2012 and 2013, then available for sale.

According to Columbia Power, working with Ershigs was a natural choice since the firm is located in Bellingham, Washington, and capable of manufacturing large buoy components close to where they will be deployed. “We were very pleased Columbia Power chose to pursue a composite approach to this wave energy concept and we are excited to lend our composite design and large scale fabrication experience to help it succeed into commercialization,” says Hettick. In addition, the company’s scope was to provide mechanical engineering and marine design services as well as composite manufacturing expertise, Hettick notes.

Tom Pilcher, president of Ershigs, notes that collaborations like this one with Columbia Power are helping his company expand into new markets. “Ershigs has been very strong in the power market,” Pilcher says, “because we specialize in onsite fabrication of very large cylindrical components like chimney liners for smokestacks at coal-fired power plants.” But traditional power markets will likely dry up over time, says Pilcher, so the company has started investing in alternative energy projects and clean water technology.

Partnering with existing companies allows Ershigs to also expand its expertise. “We don’t pretend to have the marketing and sales presence to jump into markets that we don’t already have a presence in,” says Pilcher. “So we find partners in each new industry and invest in the company in exchange for the opportunity to apply composite solutions to their concepts.”

In addition to its work with CPT, Ershigs is producing micro-turbines designed to turn water flow in irrigation ditches into electricity. The key, says Pilcher, is to diversify. “We’re investing in a lot of different technologies.” The company is also working with researchers in Ohio to develop composite towers for large-scale wind turbines. As turbines have gotten larger, says Pilcher, transporting the metal towers that hold them from distant manufacturing facilities has gotten more difficult.