Swiss team designs low cost, low maintenance wave power system

December 09 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2020   Rating: 3 Hot

ocean powerWhile solar power is often described as the world's great untapped clean source of energy, ocean power deserves as much attention. In fact, it deserves a lot of attention given the expectation that the world will double energy consumption in the decades ahead. And the reality that most of the world's population lives close to an ocean.

Futures oriented energy engineers dream of capturing the steady kinetic and thermal of energy. Unlike solar and wind, ocean energy provides near 24/7 potential utilization.

A Low Mainteance Linear Generator?
Now a Swiss team from Upsalla University has developed and tested a novel system.  For nearly three years, a wave power plant has stood on the bottom of the ocean a couple of kilometers off the west coast of Sweden, near Lysekil. Rafael Waters, from the Uppsala University Division of Electricity, designed and built the facility as part of his doctoral project.

The team's 'linear generator' generates electricity with the slow up and down movements of the waves. An ordinary generator transforms rotation energy to electricity, and it needs to turn at about 1500 rpm to be efficient.  (Images)

“This means that a wave energy station with an ordinary generator needs energy transmission systems such as gearboxes or hydraulic systems and other complicated details that wear out and require much more maintenance than a linear generator,” says Rafael Waters. “Our generator has functioned without any trouble every time we started it up over the years, even though it has received no maintenance and has sometimes stood still for months.”

Future plans for the wave power array

Rafael Waters and his colleagues are busy determining parameters such as power output and buoy size in order to attain the best results in the long term.

“With smaller buoys and lower power output, there is less stress on the wave power station. On the other hand, the goal is to produce as much power as possible. This is ultimately an economic consideration, and we want to understand how to optimize the construction.”

Next year the wave power facility in Lysekil will be complemented by two more plants and connected to one of the world's first wave energy parks, which will be capable of supplying household electricity to about 60 homes. In a few years' time, the park will include some ten plants.

In the long term, wave energy should be able to supply Sweden with about 10TWh of electricity per year, comparable to 12 nuclear power plants.

"But other countries have much more potential," says Rafael Waters. "Norway's waves, for instance, contain ten times as much energy as ours, and Norway's total potential is more than ten times higher than Sweden's."

 

EureakAlert Press Release

Material adaptive from Press Release:
Anneli Waara, Uppsala University, Informationsavdelningen / Communications Department
Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

Comment Thread (6 Responses)

  1. This seems to be a little more disruptive than solar energy though. Doesn’t it affect the oceanic ecosystem?

    Posted by: AdamEdwards   December 10, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  2. Adam,

    It’s certainly not free from disruption since it requires putting concrete blocks onto ocean floor and buoys on stop. But the assumption / evaluation by engineers is that the tethered system is not overtly harmful and is likely to be closer to the shore (where you have fairly predictable marine life patterns. The line goes up and down slowly – so no worry of rapidly spin turbines.

    but, yes, not everyone will be happy—and then there is the electrical line connections to land! So I’m new to this topic but it’s easy to find others more engaged on ‘good /bad’ side of impact on the web. Thanks.. should have mentioned that in the post!!

    Posted by: Garry Golden   December 10, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  3. Excellent. Wave power is a great tool for our expanding energy generating needs.

    Posted by: Covus   December 10, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  4. I know Oceans carry tons of potential energy, so much that it’s hard to fathom, but it gets me thinking. If we put in tons of these kinds of generators, I mean TONS, enough to blanket entire areas of the ocean, will it have an effect on waves? The energy has to come from somewhere and we’re sucking it out of the waves, so then by that rational wouldn’t waves diminish? Yes, I know that for us to even have the slightest impact on waves we’d have to blanket the entire ocean with these, but it’s something to consider.

    Also with wind, I wonder if we cover the mid-west with wind power generators, would tornadoes diminish? Again, entire states would have to be covered, but I can;t stop thinking about it. A green energy plan could mean a calm Earth. Stagnant.

    Posted by: John Heylin   December 11, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  5. Coming from a country that is surrounded by coastline like Australia, it would be interesting to see how that type of technology would perform here. This adaption of power generation seems to be on par with wind farms. I think it would have less inpact on the environment.

    Posted by: LifeORiley   December 11, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  6. Coming from a country that is surrounded by coastline like Australia, it would be interesting to see how that type of technology would perform here. This adaption of power generation seems to be on par with wind farms. I think it would have less inpact on the environment.

    Posted by: LifeORiley   December 11, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend