Wave energy gets rolling

Image: Kimse  CC 2.0  

Image: Kimse CC 2.0 

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The first known patent for a machine that can get energy from waves was filed in Paris in 1799. Relatively speaking not much has happened since. To this day very little energy is captured from waves worldwide. It wasn't until 2008 that the first experimental wave farm opened. 

Wave energy might be getting rolling though. Recently the computer giant Apple announced support to Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland for R & D around wave power (though only for about 1 million pounds which is chicken scratch for Apple).  Now a prototype for a 250KW wave power unit is going in near Victoria in Australia. The device is 26 meters and oscillates under water and moves cylinders, which spin a generator.

But this isn't all that is going on down-under. Two companies (Carnegie Wave Energy Limted and Western Power) are working to create the world's first "micro-grid" powered by waves, as a way to bring power to islands. According to Mary Nichols at Design & Trend "The concept is relatively simple - the [units] will be fully submerged buoys known as buoyant actuators. These units will be bound to a pump on the seafloor by a tether and the pump will transfer the wave energy collected into pressurized fluid. This fluid will then be used in the hydroelectric power plants based onshore. The buoys register the wave energy created in the ocean and send it to the seafloor pumps through the tether that anchors them to the seafloor." Click on the image below to see video on the unit. 

The units will produce about 5MW which can address the power needs of 2,000-3,000 homes. In this case the energy will be used by the Defense Department facilities on Garden Island. 

There are environmental concerns (as there are all with all energy production). Some potential issues (depending on design) are disruption of marine life, marine organisms getting trapped in devices,  disruption to wave shore patterns.

In many ways it is still, 200 years after the first patent, early days for wave power. But like the sun's energy, the waves are going to keep coming and bring with them energy that can be captured.