top of page


The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans

Oceans have been called the Earth’s biggest batteries. They surround almost three-quarters of the Earth’s surface and store tons of energy. The energy in ocean waves could provide up to a third of the United States’ electricity needs. That's double the electricity created by U.S. hydroelectric dams, solar power and wind power combined—and enough to power every home in the nation. With the planet warming at a terrifying rate from the burning of fossil fuels, we desperately need that clean energy.

So what’s keeping us from harnessing this astonishing power? The ocean itself. For decades, inventors have been struggling to find a way to produce electricity from the

punishing force of our powerful oceans.  Their work is finally reaching a crest. In the Pacific Northwest, where massive waves batter the coast almost all year, engineers are perfecting ingenious devices that transform the intense energy of those waves into the electricity we need to power our lives.

Join award-winning writer Elizabeth Rusch for an inside look at this exciting new renewable energy field. Follow Annette von Jouanne, her students and her private-company-partners as they struggle to create clever wave energy devices that float atop the waves. Step into the world of “the Mikes”—Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes—engineers and life-long friends who are trying to build a very different device that sits on the ocean floor. See the work of the scientists at Ocean Power Technologies, who might just be the first in the water to provide real energy to real people.

From the lab to the open ocean, the water park to the tsunami-testing basin, discover if it’s really possible to harness the awesome power of our incredible oceans. Could this really be the next wave?

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Year Published: October 14, 2014

ISBN-10: 0544099990
ISBN-13: 978-0544099999

~ Junior Library Guild selection ~
~ Timely, important," Kirkus (starred review) ~ 
~ “Informative, intriguing, and inspiring,” School Library Journal (starred review) ~
~ "A fascinating account...mind-boggling, but so fun to read," San Francisco Book Review (five stars) ~
~ NSTA Outstanding Science Tradebook 2015 ~
~ Bank Street Best Book of the Year, 2015 ~
~ Kirkus Best Book of 2014 ~ 
~ Oregon Spirit Honor ~
~ Green Earth Honor Book ~


KIRKUS, ★ Starred Review ★
"Timely, important"

​Scientists and engineers from around the world work to harness the power of ocean waves, testing their ideas in an Oregon research lab and the stormy seas off the Oregon coast. Here’s another well-written science title from an author whose previous contributions to the Scientists in the Field series introduced researchers studying volcanic eruptions on Earth and exploring Mars. After explaining the world’s need for renewable energy sources and the force of ocean power, Rusch focuses on three different approaches to harnessing this power that were underway at the time of her writing. She draws in young readers by introducing two engineers as young tinkerers, following their work through college to the development of a company testing an energy-capture device that sits on the ocean floor. An Oregon State University faculty member has equipped a testing ground offshore to monitor different approaches; some of her students are now building a device that uses the up-and-down motion of the waves. A third company has created working wave-powered buoys using a different design. A center spread describes other approaches from around the world. Lively design, clear explanations, text boxes, photographs and diagrams all contribute to an informative look at how people are working right now to find ways to use a previously inaccessible energy source. Timely, important, appropriately focused and interesting. (extensive chapter notes, sources, suggestions, index) (Nonfiction. 10-15)


“Informative, intriguing, and inspiring”


Rainforests and savannahs, coral reefs and tundra—readers are most likely familiar with these fields in which scientists work. But this time, it is the energy of the physical movement of the global ocean that is the field, and here in this world of watery physics, a series of imaginative, innovative engineers have been designing, building, and experimenting to successfully harness this inexorable surge of energy. Rusch’s readable text follows three very varied groups of visionary engineers on this quest: Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes (who are working on a device that will allow people to sit upon the ocean floor), Annette von Jouanne and her team (working on a floating design), and the cofounders of Ocean Power Technologies, the first to win a permit to generate “ocean electricity,” to be marketed to homes and businesses on the Oregon coast. Included are sidebars on a rich variety of topics such as “Working with Watts” and a global inventory of “Wild Wave Inventions of the World.” Colorful diagrams and a plethora of photos provide visual stimulation as well. This pellucid look into a promising field of alternative energy (so needed in a warming world) and into the scientists devoting their lives to bring concept into reality is informative, intriguing, and inspiring.
–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

"A fascinating account...mind-boggling, but so fun to read," San Francisco Book Review, five stars

Common Core Curriculum, whether one is for or against it, has created at least one thing that is a gift for young people. It has pushed publishers to bring out a lot of very good, high-interest non-fiction material for youngsters. Kids, for the most part, really love good non-fiction. This book may be one of the best of a very good bunch. There has been much published about renewable energy, but little of it has focused on the constant energy of the oceans.


Elizabeth Rusch has written a fascinating account of some groups working in this emerging field, and she writes with a very light hand, focusing on the interesting people as much as the technology and, in some cases, telling their stories from their beginnings. The inventiveness and creativity of all the groups is rather mind-boggling, but so fun to read about, it should engender even more interest on the part of young people in learning about science. This will be of most interest to kids from fourth to seventh grades, but even older readers will enjoy this well-written, fascinating look at an up-and-coming and important industry.

–Rosi Hollinbeck


"Rusch fully explores the engineering process, capturing the determined, entrepreneurial spirit of the profiled engineers as well as the need for creative problem-solving and ingenuity..."

This entry in the excellent Scientists in the Field series describes a critical engineering challenge: the efficient capture of the energy produced by ocean waves and its conversion to electricity. Figuring out how to transfer wave action into energy without either losing collection equipment to storms and weathering or harming marine life is a significant problem. It’s a problem with a potentially big financial payoff, however, which is why the majority of projects featured in this book are in the commercial arena: the highlighted researchers include the founders of a start-up venture and an academic engineer who works in collaboration with energy companies. Rusch fully explores the engineering process, capturing the determined, entrepreneurial spirit of the profiled engineers as well as the need for creative problem-solving and ingenuity, a test-and-retest mentality, a high tolerance for failure, and perseverance through the quest for research funding. Color photographs and illustrations feature many different cutting-edge prototypes in both small-scale laboratory and full-ocean tests. Underlying physics and earth-science principles are explained in text boxes interspersed throughout the book. A glossary, notes, sources, recommended reading, and an index are appended. danielle j. ford


Elizabeth Rusch's forthcoming The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans (Scientists in the Field Series)(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) is a highly readable report on the state of the art of ocean motion generation. Using young would-be inventors to capture the readers' attention, Rusch's narration reveals the ebb and flow of inventing, failures, partial successes, and working models, many of which are currently in operation in the proving grounds of coastal areas all over the world. Rusch's text provides fact boxes, diagrams, and many photos, with appended glossary, chapter notes, and index, to explain the principles of generating electricity from the restless motion of the seas, all of which are variations on the familiar principles of turbines turned by air or water pressure, but all of which have variations which make them adaptable to the differing tidal conditions. Fortunately, as Rusch's wave intensity world map shows, ocean motion is greatest in the coastal areas where our populations are most dense, a lucky coincidence for mankind.

Wave power is attractive as an energy source because it is always there. Winds can still. Drought can reduce water flow; clouds can obscure the sun, but the oceans are always there, always in motion. Using that motion most efficiently is a challenge, but it is mainly an engineering problem, one that is well within human power to solve….


Award-winning author Elizabeth Rusch's The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans  is another absorbing entry into Houghton Mifflin's stellar Scientists in the Field series which takes readers right down to the nitty-gritty of doing science, as we say, on the ground, or in this case, into the waters of the world.


Managing water movement for conversion into power is as old as the mill race, but depletion of fossil fuels lends hydroelectric development fresh urgency. Here Rusch follows teams of scientists and entrepreneurs as they experiment with generating systems that can withstand the turbulent, unpredictable battering of the oceans. The science behind harnessing wave movement to produce electricity is fairly simple, as the early device created by Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes demonstrates with milk dispenser bags and a plastic spoon turbine, powered by waves that pass over the inflated bags. The reality of the ocean, though, calls for heavy engineering, and here the narrative switches to scientists like Annette von Jouanne, who has worked on academic teams and alongside commercial developers to invent buoys, platforms, and other contraptions that will hopefully survive tsunami height waves and deliver enough wattage to be financially viable. Rusch (Eruption!, BCCB 9/13) does well to open with the garage-style tinkering of the “two Mikes,” which allows readers to digest the relative simplicity of their device, and then transfer this understanding to the more complex models under development. She also turns attention to the role grants and investments play in scientific developments, and the concerns of environmentalists who fear ocean species may become collateral damage in the pursuit of promising new technologies. Source notes and bibliographies are provided, a glossary stands at the ready, and plentiful diagrams supplement the color photographs. Kids who imagine an engineering career in their future will want to explore this timely work. EB 

“A fine choice…”

From the Scientists in the Field series, this informative book introduces several engineers who are working to turn the force of ocean waves into electric power. The most engaging sections follow “the Mikes,” two childhood friends who rode bikes and built forts together. In high school, they helped start a science club, and, as seniors at Oregon State, they teamed up to invent a wave device. More than a decade later, they returned to that idea, won grants, and built an energy apparatus that sits on the ocean floor. In another long-term project begun at the university, an engineering professor and her students invented a floating wave-energy device. Both projects and others profiled are ongoing. Throughout the book, color photos show the teams’ work in various stages. Sidebars introduce topics such as the practical applications of wave-energy production and the possible effects of wave-energy devices on marine animals. The author of The Mighty Mars Rovers (2012) and Eruption! (2013), Rusch once again looks at the convergence of science and technology. Writing clearly about the engineers’ trial-and-error methods, she conveys the importance of testing, the necessity of funding, and the satisfaction of working toward a worthwhile goal. A fine choice for young people intrigued by engineering and oceanography.

— Carolyn Phelan

“Important and timely…highly recommended”

When discussion revolves around our need for renewable energy sources, solar and wind seem to get all the press. A part of the Scientists in the Field series, this book brings deserving attention to the possibility of harnessing the energy of the ocean’s waves. The scientists and their work profiled here include a quest to find a viable and safe means of harnessing the power of the ocean. Well-captioned color photographs help the reader understand the myriad machines that have been designed to turn ocean energy into electrical energy. The book also discusses the work by commercial power companies in trying to make ocean generated electricity economically viable. A glossary covers unfamiliar technical terms; impressive notes and source lists are organized by chapter. Rusch’s work is an important and timely addition to the series. Rich Parker, Media Specialist, Fox Chapel Elementary School, Germantown, Maryland
Highly Recommended

bottom of page