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Two New Ideas in Wave and Tidal Power

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IEEE Spectrum has an article on some new ocean energy technologies – Two New Ideas in Wave and Tidal Power.

The wave power idea is closer than the tidal energy one to rollout, with a planned open-water test for this summer. M3 Wave dispenses with all the problems that come with buoys or other above-and-below-the-surface designs by mooring a simple device to the ocean floor. The device, pictured above, involves two air chambers: as a wave passes over the top of the first chamber, the pressure inside increases, forcing air through a passageway to the second chamber. Inside the passageway is a turbine, so the passing air is actually what generates the electricity. As the wave continues on, it raises the pressure inside the second chamber, pushing the air back through the turbine—importantly, it is a bidirectional turbine—and back into the first chamber. Another wave, another cycle. Repeat.The primary selling point here is its simple and small footprint. There is no impact on ocean view, on shipping or fishing traffic, and rough seas above won’t endanger the system in any way. M3 is selling it as “expeditionary” wave power, meaning it might be brought along on a ship and deployed for things like disaster relief; the company suggests such a deployment could produce 150 to 500 kilowatts. The system will undergo open-water testing at a U.S. National Guard facility, Camp Rilea in Oregon, in August.

On the other side of the country, a group at Brown University has developed what they call an oscillating hydrofoil, intended to minimize some of the impacts of tidal power devices and increase efficiency. The hydrofoil is mounted on to the sea floor—it resembles a car’s spoiler attached to a pole, essentially. As the water flows past that spoiler it oscillates, generating electricity. It is designed so that the pole can actually fold down and out of the way if necessary, allowing for ships or even wildlife (detected with sensors on the device) to pass by without incident. The team received US $750 000 in funding from ARPA-E in 2012, and will soon move to a phase II involving a medium-scale, 10-kw prototype. They have calculated that the device can achieve much better energy conversion efficiencies in tides flowing very slowly than any of the devices that are on or close to market.

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7 Comments on "Two New Ideas in Wave and Tidal Power"

  1. J-Gav on Sat, 29th Mar 2014 11:42 pm 

    There might be something in this, and it might be good, but it won’t solve our predicament. The ocean is, after all, well-known not only for its power to generate energy, but also for its tendency to discombobulate mankind’s efforts to rein it in. The Outer-Hebrides project in Scotland (Lewis Island) would seem to be the only one for the moment which has met with any real success.

  2. DC on Sun, 30th Mar 2014 12:43 am 

    Wave and Tidal power is indeed very powerful, but its too diffuse to do much good. But like all these articles that about ‘how to’ do something, they seldom ask, ‘what for’, or ‘why’ we should. Why would I or anyone else, want to spend trillions to convert the oceans into a gigantic energy grid so people can have 5 big screen TVs running on standby 24/7? Isn’t turning the oceans into dead zones full of our plastic trash not enough of an insult and assault?

  3. Makati1 on Sun, 30th Mar 2014 1:36 am 

    In the near future, we will be more interested in the next meal than how much electric we can afford or where it comes from.

    I watched a lot of SF TV shows that had some form of sea generation facility that was destroyed by earthquakes or fissures opening up under them or some other natural event that took them out.

    I wonder how energy intensive maintenance would be? Is there actually a net energy return on the investment? I doubt it. Not enough to justify it’s use.

  4. Davy, Hermann, MO on Sun, 30th Mar 2014 1:41 am 

    Damn DC, we seem to be on the same page with most environmental issues.

  5. DC on Sun, 30th Mar 2014 3:56 am 

    Tom Murphy

  6. GregT on Sun, 30th Mar 2014 7:26 am 

    As usual, instead of facing the realities of population overshoot, environmental destruction, and quite possibly a human caused global mass extinction event, we keep looking for more ways to continue doing the very things that are causing our biggest problems to begin with. We either learn how to live with current sunlight, like all natural beings on this planet, or we will continue to destroy the only planet that we will ever have to live on.

    The last few hundred years of human technological innovation are not sustainable. We either rethink our relationship with the natural environment, or we will not survive. We either grow up as a species, or we will no longer be sustained.

  7. bobinget on Sun, 30th Mar 2014 3:38 pm 

    Before taking up berry farming I served as a ocean going tug boat officer. Our crew kept busy almost twelve hours daily keeping our ship from disintegrating
    into a layers of rust and barnacles. Often, I dreamed of a stainless steel vessel coated with some viciously poisonous barnacle repellent.

    We always almost welcomed storms that would offer relief from those boring days of being house painters instead of seamen.

    Other posters have alluded to how corrosive seawater is when exposed to oxygen. They are entirely correct.

    One day new materials will make ocean power, including off shore wind, entirely practical.
    I’ll predict those units will Not be Job Killers.

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