Saturday, August 14, 2004

After a slow start wave power is making an appearance.

The Wave Dragon, the Salter Duck, the Archimedes Wave Swing, the Sea Clam, the Tapchan, and the Pendulor are all wave powered electric generating systems that have floundered on technical problems. Energy from waves has been erratic and difficult to harnass. In most coastal areas, waves are intermittent, which means energy production is spotty. Virtually all of the devices tested in the past only produced electricity when the surf was up, with no means of storing power.

The early devices were complicated and often too fragile for the pouning waves. Plus they typically produce low-frequency power, which can be difficult and expensive to convert to high-frequency electrical grids.

But a new generation of wave powered devices is making its appearance

The Seadog,
say its inventors, represents a different, simpler and more rugged approach that can actually turn an elusive dream into a commercial reality.

Manufactured by Independent Natural Resources Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn., the device is an anchored mechanical pump that uses wave action to transport seawater to an elevated reservoir onshore. Water from the reservoir is then released down a flume to turn a turbine, which produces high-frequency electricity.

Energy is stored latently, as water in the reservoir. When more electricity is needed, more water is released down the flume. The system involves no hydraulics, no noxious fluids, no submerged cables. ...

Bolstered by $270,000 in venture capital, Thomas plans to have a single unit installed off the Humboldt coast by the end of the year to demonstrate the essential feasibility of the technology in the real marine world. The project must be approved by the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission.

In New York City Verdant Power, an energy company based in Arlington, Virginia, plans to plunge six electricity turbines into the East River. If the $4.5-million project is successful, the generators will form the first farm of tide-powered turbines in the world.

The New York project signals a trend towards cheaper, free-standing turbines that can be dropped into oceans or estuaries. The first experimental tidal mills were installed last year: a 300-kilowatt turbine was sited off the north Devon coast in Britain and another of the same capacity was placed near Hammerfest, Norway. The two European companies behind them are planning to expand these individual mills into turbine fields.

Taylor believes he has an advantage over his competitors, because the design of his turbine blades means that they keep spinning even at slower water speeds. His team tested a smaller prototype of the turbine, suspended from a platform, in January 2003.

And in Spain a New Jersey based company is building the first wave power station off the northern coast of Spain.

The project, which is due to begin in March, 2004, will involve the building of a pilot plant with an initial capacity of 1.25 MW, with the possible expansion to 2.0 MW. Iberdrola will connect the power generated by the planned wave power station into the Spanish national grid. Iberdrola is making a concerted effort to increase their renewable energy capacity.

"Iberdrola is firmly committed to renewable energy development," said Roberto Legaz, Iberdrola's Director of Renewable Development. "We are investing more than 2.4 billion euros in renewable energy over the period 2002 to 2006, to reach a capacity from these sources of 4,500 MW by the end of 2007.

OPT and Iberdrola plan to form a joint venture for the development, construction, operating and financing of the project. In addition, the joint venture will proceed towards developing offshore wave power of up to 100 MW installed capacity.

Many people in the industry will be watching these projects to see how viable they are. As oil production nears peak, all forms of renewable energies will need to be exploited to replace hydrocarbons.


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