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Alternative Energy: Power Via Coastal Wave Motion. 368

Posted by chrisd
from the manna-from-the-moon dept.
lavalamp writes "Scottish company Ocean Power Delivery has developed a sectional-torpedo-looking-thing as a means to transform the raw fury of the sea into electricity! I'm curious to see what happens when another drunk Exxon captain plows into a field of these things. They just secured a 8.6m (usd) in funding to continue research and build a large scale prototype." The company has won a contract to produce a 750kw "plant" off of the scottish coast and has an mou to produce a 2Mw project off of the coast of Vancouver Island in Canada. While this is far from being free energy, it is a pretty interesting way of deriving power from the tides. A side benefit is that surfers will finally be able to rail like their boarding cousins.
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Alternative Energy: Power Via Coastal Wave Motion.

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  • Well, considering Hazelwood wasn't at the helm I suppose it'd be a first if it happened. Why is it that environmentalists looking for alternate power sources have to bash the oil companies?

    I swear, it's as bad as the open source zealots going after microsoft. Why can't people just say, "Hey - alternate power cool!" instead of bashing the oil companies? Because, let me tell you, the oil companies are a lot better than Microsoft as far as their antics. Microsoft doesn't have a bunch of hippies surrounding every office building 24/7 waiting to bust them for hurting some fuzzy animal.
    • I swear, it's as bad as automobile owners in Portland, Oregon bashing the Carr Auto Group.
  • Windtraps (Score:4, Informative)

    by Adnans (2862) on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @06:47PM (#3196845) Homepage Journal
    When will those Dune windtraps become reality??

    Seriously, power generation via wave is old news.

    Check out this [murdoch.edu.au] site for some backgrounds.

    -adnans
    • Probably about the same time as stillsuits. :)
    • The URL you provided describes capturing wave power at the coastline, by installing a device into the rocks by the water.

      This is completely different, a device that floats in the middle of the water and, better yet, can be chain-linked together in series. The installation expense looks to be much lower, and wouldn't damage coastlines either. In fact, you could probably install and use them when you're nowhere near a coastline, like near a free-standing drilling platform.
    • Yeah, though I don't think any of the wave-powered windtraps got built until relatively recently (two years ago or so). I remember discussions of wave and tide power generation from when I was a kid in the 70's.

      See stuff at the BBC here [bbc.co.uk] and here [bbc.co.uk] from November 2000.

  • I wonder if they've studied the effects of using things like this first. I mean sure, it's clean energy....but damn first off it kills the view right off the bat. How about marine life, how do they take to giant red torpedo's in their environment. Does it confuse them? etc.... Is this only going to be done in places people don't frequent for surfing and swimming. There's very little information on the site, leaves ya with more questions than answers.
    • Re:Surfing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by catkinson (187577) on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @07:48PM (#3197178) Homepage
      You ever tried surfing off the coast of Vancouver Island?

      I'll give you a hint---it's freezing!

      Sure, there are a few hardy souls who don their drysuits and hoods, I'm not meaning to discredit them!

      The view? Fish can't swim around it? An undersea structure like this will likely provide habitat for so many other creatures.

      Some study needs to be done--I agree! But to write the idea off as crazy is not appropriate. I'd settle for less view, a few disgruntled surfers, fish that are on drugs, if it meant that Vancouver Island could have some energy independence from the mainland.

      Currently we do not produce enough power on the island for our needs and we import it from the Mainland and Washington State. Soon they are talking about building a natural gas pipeline.

      Now what do you think about it?
    • Adding stationary objects would actually help the marine system ideally.

      You begin to give habitat where there was none like an artificial reef system.

      Trust me, fish lovers will get with the rest and make sure the plan works.
  • by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate@gmaQUOTEil.com minus punct> on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @06:48PM (#3196852)
    How do these things interact with sea life? Often, various species of fish and invertabrate type creates cling to relatively stationary type things in the ocean- often intentional, such as when an obsolete ship is sunk for an artificial reef.

    So if sea life starts to make a home out of these things, will it interfere with their operation? I could probably figure it out from their PDF's but I've left work and my brain has shut down for the day.
  • by Neorej (398404) <j.veen@NoSPam.kpn-is.nl> on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @06:48PM (#3196853) Homepage
    I remember these books I had on "How things work" when I was a kid. One of them was all about the earth itself, volcanos, wind, water, the works.

    I vividly remember a picture of a wave with a bunch of strange yellow things in it. The things were wave braker like devices that used the power of the waves to generate electricity.

    "When I was a kid" is somewhere around the mid eighties here, I guess.

    If everything I learned from books then is going to be re-invented this century I think we still have a LONG list ahead of us. Let's hope they pass up on some of the more stupid ones, like Windows 3.0.
  • I wonder (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029)
    I wonder what nasty side-effects that will cause in the ocean.

    You just can't take energy out of a system without a side-effect.

    Of course, it will only be an issue if it is ever scaled up.
    • But we're not taking energy out of a system. The energy's on Earth, isn't it? You move it around a bit, make some use of it. No loss. In the ocean, the tides expend massive energy every time a wave breaks. The little generators have the same general effect. It's like saying that solar cells will cause the premature burnout of the Sun. The energy's there, we can choose to take advantage of it or no.
      • Re:I wonder (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Mr.Intel (165870)
        But we're not taking energy out of a system.

        True, but we are taking the energy out before it hits land. This will decrease natural erosion, deacrease the amount of carbon absorbed by the ocean (it is a natural carbon sink) and possibly affect sea life in that region. Granted that the energy taken from the tide would be relatively small compared to the total kinetic energy of the waves. Nevertheless, over time it would be difficult to tell exactly what the impact would be.
  • Woo hoo! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tadrith (557354)
    I'm wondering if this isn't something that might help us here in California with our so-called "energy crisis".

    I firmly believe that we're all getting ripped off by the energy companies out here, and that the crisis would be solved if the idiot power companies would shape up. However, this doesn't seem to be happening, so perhaps this might bring some new companies to the table, and possible spark a little competition out here? Perhaps at least give us more options so we can quit being raped by our electric bills. Even with cutting back, I'm paying a lot.

    Besides, to cut back anymore would require powering down my servers. That's just not gonna happen.
    • Re:Woo hoo! (Score:5, Informative)

      by spike hay (534165) <<blu_ice> <at> <violate.me.uk>> on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @07:03PM (#3196964) Homepage
      This won't solve our energy problems. It will help some though. It is only worth putting tidal plants in areas with large differences between high and low tide. These places are few and far between. Even when they do put plants in these places, they only produce a fraction of the power of a convetional plant.

      To really solve the energy crisis w/o polluting, we need to build more nuclear power plants.

      It's not so bad as people think. It doesn't pollute like coal. It's not expensive like natural gas. (which, BTW, also pollutes)

      Coal pollutes too much. We'd be overrun with smog, much more so than if we used gasoline engines. We don't have enough oil to be energy independant. Natural gas is too expensive and we will run out of it in about 30 years. That leaves us with nuclear. Nuclear power is not as dangerous as people think. Also, a Chernobyl-scale meltdowns in U.S. PWR are impossible. The Chernobyl reactor was a crappy commie RBMK reactor with no containment building. Of course we had the TMI reactor problem. However, that killed or injured no one. And, according to the World Health Org, only 31 people were killed in Chernobyl.


      Fears of nuclear power are overblown. Radiation is just like any other pollutant. And you need a shyteload of radiation to really harm you. Nuclear power has killed a grand total of 35-50 people in it's entire exsistence. Coal power has killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million people.


      Little known fact, but according to the Lawrence Livermore Nat'l lab, coal power realeases more radiation than nuclear power. Coal naturally contains some thorium and uranium. When you burn coal, this is realesed into the air. We burn so much fscking coal that we realease around 150 thousand tons of uranium and 350 thousand tons of thorium into the atmosphere!!! The study is here [ornl.gov]. Nuclear power is also cheap. With some new tech, they have gotten the cost of some nuclear power plants below the cost of coal.

      There is not mountains of nuclear waste made by our plants. Each plant only uses several tons pounds of uranium a year. That would fit in an area just a few feet square. The total amount of waste ever created for a whole family for their whole lives would fit in a shoebox. If we reprocessed our fuel, it would fit in a pill bottle. Compare that to mountains of highly toxic coal waste with arsenic, cyanide, and other good stuff that just sits on the ground and leaches poisons into the groundwater.


      Nuclear waste storage is very good. It's not like they are hauling it around in thin metal barrels like the environmentalists want you to think. No. The waste is transported in thick metal containers that have been tested by being thrown off cliffs, rammed into locomotives, and all sorts of crap. In Yucca mountain, the waste is stored inside these metal casks, which are in turn inside an ultra-thick concrete subterrainean room. Also, the storage place is 1,000 feet above the water table, so you're OK there.

      • Re:Woo hoo! (Score:2, Insightful)

        by abigor (540274)
        Yes, good points. As for the 5 million figure, where did you get it? If you add in the cumulative effects of fossil fuels (even the cleanest burning engines produce unfilterable microparticulate that lodges deep in the lungs), I'd bet it's actually much higher.

        Despite these logical facts about nuclear, don't expect public opinion to change any time soon. The fact is, when stuff goes wrong with nuclear power, it freaks out an entire generation who won't go near the stuff. And also, don't lump all environmentalists together; I happen to be one (a wilderness activist, to be specific), but I'm certainly aware of the advantages that nuclear offers.
      • You say we have 30 years of natural gas left. Well how many years of nuclear energy do we have left? It wouldn't do much good jumping on to nuclear if that will only last for 50 years...
      • Nuclear waste storage is very good. It's not like they are hauling it around in thin metal barrels like the environmentalists want you to think. No.

        This rather misses the point (in addition to being a bit optimistic). A brief glance at Greenpeace [greenpeace.org] highlights the dangers in long-distance radioactive fuel transport. Trafficking and sabotage [mindfully.org] of nuclear fuel shipments are the potential source of major disasters, alongside abysmal safety records [britishnuclearfuels.com] for fuel storage and reprocessing.

        Nuclear power has too many 'collateral' problems, not least in the way it helps the proliferation [nci.org] of nuclear weapons. It's time to ditch it.

      • &gt This won't solve our energy problems. It will help some though. It is only worth putting tidal plants in areas with large differences between high and low tide

        The high tide and low tide height difference is trivial. Just to be absurd, let's assume the height difference is 10 meters. So that's potentially 10 meters of travel from low tide to high tide. Problem is, How much time does it take to move from high tide to low tide? We're talking about literally hours.

        So lets look back in our physics book.
        1 watt = 1 Newton * 1 Meter per second.
        To keep math simple, lets assume that our energy capturing device relies on moving a column of water weighing 10,000 Kg. - converted to force, we have roughly 100,000 Newtons. Also to keep math simple, lets assume the tide moves once every 10 hours (I honestly don't know what's accurate).
        10 hours equals 60*60*10 or 36000 seconds.
        Our power output is now:

        100,000 Newtons * 10 Meters / 36,000 seconds = ~27.8 Watts
        or roughly the amount of power required to power a high efficientcy bulb. note that this is assuming 100% efficientcy!

        IMHO, 27 watts is negligible considering such a huge column of water being moved.

        Now lets look at the energy of each individual wave. To keep math simple, lets assume a moving column of water weighing only 10 Kg. (converts to roughly 100 Newtons of Force). Assume a wave height (amplitude) of only 1 meter. And lets assume a wave travels past every 10 seconds. Now we have:

        100 newtons * 1 meter / 5 seconds = 20 watts.
        That's roughly the same power output with only 10 Kilograms of water moving! Assuming we could extract the energy with 100% efficiency, were talking about a factor of 1000:1

        Please note, I'm only nitpicking. (you could easily nitpick my crude math). I agree that Nuclear energy is underrated, but I felt that this technology should also be defended.

      • by Mandelbrute (308591) on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @10:59PM (#3198071)
        The Chernobyl reactor was a crappy commie RBMK reactor with no containment building
        After the steam explosion there was no roof remaining in the containment building.
        Little known fact, but according to the Lawrence Livermore Nat'l lab, coal power realeases more radiation than nuclear power
        Here we go again - the advertising of the AEC has won another convert. Here's how you get numbers like those:

        First, you consider a new, well run nuclear power plant with on site storage of all radioactive materials. The radiation output of such a plant should be zero. Then you measure the entire world consumption of coal, work out how much radioactive material there would be on average in all of that coal, and you get a large number. Compare the ratio of the two and you get an infinite amount. Everyone would probably agree that this is a very silly way to do a comparison.

        So why is the coal radioactive? Sedimentary rock is made up of other rock that has been ground down, and then laid down as sediment - you have a wide mix of minerals in such rock. As a consequence, if you consider a large amount of any sedimentary rock you will find some radioactive material present - this is one of the sources of natural background radiation. So, if you go a step furthur, and consider VAST amounts of coal, oil or even foodstuffs, you will find large amounts of radioactive material. The difference between the radioactivity in a childs sandpit, an ash storage dam at a coal fired power plant and the lowest grade of nuclear waste to merit special storage is that of concentration of radioactive material. It would probably be extemely difficult to distingish the radioactivity in an ash heap from the background radiation.

        we realease around 150 thousand tons of uranium and 350 thousand tons of thorium into the atmosphere
        Now the odd thing about heavy metals that people tend to forget, is that they are heavy. The cheapest form of anti-pollution equipment in a power station is to let the solid particles fall out by gravity - if you look at fifty year old plants they have at least that in place. The major material that is trapped in this process is silicon dioxide, and usually the aim is to trap extremely fine (sub-micron sized) particles of silicon dioxide. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to calculate the size of a uranium oxide particle that would weigh the same as a micron sized silicon dioxide particle - but I can tell you that it is very unlikely to get such a small chunk of material without trying very hard to get it.

        In short - if gravity seperation catches the light stuff it also gets the heavy stuff.

        Nuclear power is also cheap
        The situation with British Nuclear Fuels argues the opposite. I can't recall the exact number of hundreds of billions of pounds sterling they recently announced that they had lost - but a quick google search should tell. All of those rare earths used in the equipmnet are not cheap - plus none of the radiation resistant steels or iron based superalloys are cheap.

        With some new tech, they have gotten the cost of some nuclear power plants below the cost of coal.
        I think you will find that this should read "with a new government subsity." Anyone can make a profit if an outside source keeps shovelling in money.
        Each plant only uses several tons pounds of uranium a year. That would fit in an area just a few feet square.
        Therin lies the problem - a concentrated source of radioactivity. Comparing this to a beach full of sand or a hundred ash heaps is missing the point.
        Nuclear waste storage is very good.
        A google search will turn up dozens of incidents where the clueless have done silly things with nuclear waste - things like poorly trained staff stacking all of the drums very close together - so that everything gets nice and hot, and kids finding highly radioactive material form the USA in a dump in Mexico. It's the idiots that say "it's clean" that cause perception problems. We have the stuff, and use the stuff, but we should never pretend that it's clean.
      • >

        TMI killed or injured no one, but do you have any idea how close we came to containment rupture? If the explosion pressure was twice what it was, the design limits for the dome would have been exceeded. This could have easily resulted in a cracked containment dome. (President's Commission on TMI, Hearings 30 May 1979) And, then there's the guillotine effects that flying missiles from the explosion could have caused. We have very little experience in the operation of large reactors, compared to any other large industry. I'm not going to flee the country becaues of the possibilty of a nuclear disaster, but I think that "Nuclear energy is 99.9% safe; a meltdown could never happen here, etc." is a myth.
      • Its WAVE power, not tidal power. The BC test site is going to be on part of the west coast of Vancouver Island where there are lots of WAVES (not large tides) most of the year.

        BC Hydro (a crown corporation, more or less a government owned company) wants to use more "Green Power" in the future. Currently over 85% of BC's power is Hydro-electric, but the poltics involved in building large dams makes new large dams unlikely (could happen on a few sites on rivers that are already dammed). Thus the interest in alternative green energy.

        Now, I'm generally a right wing kind of guy, but BC Hydro would not be looking at actually BUILDING a wave power station if it was a private company that (as it must) only looks at it bottom line.

        For more information:
        General info on Green Power in BC [bchydro.bc.ca]

        Info on the Vancouver Island Wave Plant" [bchydro.bc.ca]

  • by Silver222 (452093)
    Would be kinda destructive. They aren't the strongest things in the world. You can abuse a snowboard or skateboard a lot more than a surfboard. Hell, they get pressure dents in the deck just from your feet.


    I'd hate to skip over one of those things with a surfboard...you'd rip the fins right off, best case. Worse case you'd end up with a trashed board.

  • Already being done.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by TwoStep (36482)
    Something similar is already being done in Canada, in the Bay of Fundy. They have a massive tidal power plant there.

    I think the tides are over 20 feet there, which I guess is the reason there aren't similar plants elsewhere.

    Twostep
  • Beware! (Score:5, Funny)

    by brogdon (65526) on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @06:53PM (#3196891) Homepage
    Don't forget this older slashdot article [slashdot.org] that deals with the dangers of tidal power, namely that since it's the moon's gravitational pull that powers the tides, by harnessing them for power, we'll slow the moon down in its orbit, causing it to fall and crash into the earth. Probably onto some kind of target laid out by Taco Bell as a free taco promotion.
    • Well, if you take energy out of a system (like the ocean) you cool it down, right? So maybe if we get enough of these suckers, we can refreeze all those icebergs that are breaking off down in Antarctica...
    • Nope. That was using -tidal- power, [where you capture the high tide and then drain it for kinetic energy]. This is different, it is dampening the energy out of waves caused by wind. Of course, this could ultimately affect climate if done in open ocean or something, but generally I imagine it would be done for waves that would otherwise crash to shore. So, if anything, it will just reduce the rate of erosion, [and piss os surfers].

    • LOL. But...

      Tidal power notwithstanding, this article talks about harnessing the kinetic energy of waves crashing to the shore. So instead of sending all of their energy into the beach, some of it will go into power generating devices and the rest will go into the beach.

      If anything, this scheme would help *save* eroding coastlines by diverting some small fraction of the force of the waves.

      It's even better than solar power that way. While solar power isn't totally free-- every joule you get from the sun is one joule that won't go into growing plants, which can ultimately have an impact on the planet's ecosystems-- the kinetic energy of waves is just going to get smeared across the beach. Some of it will become kinetic energy in the sand and rocks and whatnot, but the rest will just be conducted into the ground in the form of heat, slightly warming the sand that's already too freakin' hot to walk on.

      I say bring on the wave motion generators! And while you're at it, figure out how to build a gun out of one of them, so we can use that cool name!
    • Probably onto some kind of target laid out by Taco Bell as a free taco promotion.

      Yeah, but will they put that dumb chihuahua in the middle of the target?

    • > Don't forget this older slashdot article [slashdot.org] that deals with the dangers of tidal power, namely that since it's the moon's gravitational pull that powers the tides, by harnessing them for power, we'll slow the moon down in its orbit, causing it to fall and crash into the earth.

      And if you actually *read* any of the top-moderated posts on the article you linked to, you'll see that the Moon would do the exact opposite. As you tap tidal energy (which the Scottish power plant doesn't, it taps wave energy) the Moon is pushed further away. Concervation of angular momentum is Highschool physics folks...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    No oil company bashing from this AC. However, unless this power generation technique is competitive with burning petroleum at about US$33 per barrel, it won't be practical in the long run. The same thing applies to any energy generation, recovery or conservation scheme.

    This is because the petroleum supply curve has a bend in it, and that bend implies huge surpluses above a certain breakpoint, which in 2002 is about $33 per barrel.

    The bend is there because of the natural distribution of oil deposits - they're lognormally distributed with respect to energy content. This phenomenon applies to the supply curves for all minerals deposited by sedimentary processes, BTW.
    • However, unless this power generation technique is competitive with burning petroleum at about US$33 per barrel, it won't be practical in the long run.

      There are other ways of calculating the cost of energy. If you treat energy as a public works project like the Hoover Dam [usbr.gov], the capital cost is paid off over many decades at a nominal rate of interest. Essentially, the cost of producing energy is the operating cost and maintenance of the plant.

      Also, because a domestic source of energy is less likely to be interrupted by war in the Middle East, it would be worthwhile to have these plants for strategic reasons even if the cost is much higher than oil.

      According to the April, 2002, issue of Harper's, the U.S. currently spends $50 billion a year protecting crude oil imports in the Middle East that are only worth $19 billion. These military costs are not included in the cost-per-barrel of oil. If the U.S. could replace Middle East oil by investing that $50 billion annually in R&D, the cost of the resulting energy might be offset by the lower cost of protecting it.

      Oil industry subsidies [ucsusa.org] and environmental costs distort the true cost of a oil as well. In the end, politics determines the cost of energy.

  • puns (Score:2, Funny)

    What a smashing development.

    They sure seem energetic about this idea.

    Within months the company will be all washed up.

    • Re:puns (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tattva (53901)
      What a smashing development.

      They sure seem energetic about this idea.

      Within months the company will be all washed up.

      Will they have to buy land for this, or do they already own the tidal?

      Surfice it to say, this is a good idea.

      Wave goodbye to fossil fuels.

      Will the public embrace it, Ocean it?

    • This idea is pretty risky, they are venturing into uncharted waters.

      They better have a good CTO at the helm, times could get rough.

      I hope there investors arent cast out to sea.

  • Excellent News (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lysurgon (126252) <joshkNO@SPAMoutlandishjosh.com> on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @06:55PM (#3196908) Homepage Journal

    Though this design is nothing new (I remember a theoretical drawing in a high school textbook), it's excellent to hear that some medium scale implementations are going though.

    I can't help but think how this compares to the US energy policy, which basically boils down to "clean coal" and scrapping regulations that would mandade fuel efficency and pollution reductions. As troubling as this is from an environmental perspective, what's more troubling is the lack of desire within the leadership of this nation to actively invest in and pursue technology.

    We as a nation seem to be more than willing to let our technological advantages slip away in our moment of decadence.

    Iceland is buiding fuel-cell technology into their public buses and merchant/fishing fleet. Scotland is making power from the waves. East Germany has an all-fiber telecom network, and we have... "clean coal" and SUVs that get less than 18mpg.

    Hmmmm... I don't like where this is going in the long run. The US government has the biggest bankroll of any nation. We should be putting it to better use if you ask me.
    • Re:Excellent News (Score:3, Insightful)

      by davejenkins (99111)
      Then make sure you run right out and buy that really expensive fuel-cell car. Oh, and feel free to pay some extra voluntary taxes with a little note attached 'please give to alternative-energy scientists'.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not to hip on coal either. But my point is that it's always better to pursue the cheapest energy. If we can incorporate the 'pollution' costs into the cost of that energy, then these alternatives start to look sexy.

      • Re:Excellent News (Score:4, Insightful)

        by electroniceric (468976) on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @08:29PM (#3197406)
        Right, but "free" markets show a remarkable inertia when it comes to adding costs for things people can otherwise keep off their balance sheets. Here the environmental costs are a public good, so their costs are sloughed off of balance sheets and onto the back of the public.

        The only actor with the ability to put these costs back on balance sheets where they belong is the TV personality every American loves to hate - the government. But in the US we've come to think it's our right to have a society without taxes or rules, so we steadfastly resist this. I really think in this case, we need to look at stricter environmental laws as common sense economics - the public looking out for itself.
    • Re:Excellent News (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cally (10873)

      it's excellent to hear that some medium scale implementations are going though.


      After years of low funding and inertia, alternative energy is really taking off in the UK. I can choose to take all my domestic electricity from wind power if I want [greenpeace.org.uk] just by ticking a box on the quarterly bill - it costs the same (to me at any rate, presumably the genco's will be making bigger profits once the capital outlaw is covered, than from fossil fuel generators which need constant money shovelled into them.) We're also building several large [offshorewindfarms.co.uk] offshore windfarms [powergenrenewables.com], one off the scottish coast, one off Norfolk (eastern English coast.) Looks like we'll clean up when the Middle East goes up in smoke and the price of oil quadruples on the international spot market. I'm glad I've got stock in Ballard [ballard.com] fuel-cell manufacturers, too. Lots of people were calling me names on the Larsen break-up story I submitted the other day - well I might be a lily-livered pinko commie shirt-lifting museli muncher, who wears sandals, but at least I'll be rich =)
  • by sanermind (512885) on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @06:55PM (#3196909)
    In a related story, researchers in belgium are working on a prototype system designed to capture usefull levels of electric power from night-club dance floors.

    "Many people haven't personally seen the levels of activity that frequently are exerted in the techno-music scene. It's really quite suprisingly frenetic" says one researcher.

    And because all night dance clubs are so popular in Euroland, there is a not insignificant untapped potential for power generation. The scientists are especially exited to be developing a prototype system to be deployed in Ibiza, Spain.

    "What's especially fitting about this locale, is that a majority of the partiers [or, as we like to call them, acoustically stimulable periodic mass distributors] are in fact foreign tourists; which truly is free energy. They even pay to stay here, and pay for the food they are so efficiently converting into mechanical energy!

    • but you're not far off. At the Crystal Ballroom [mcmenamins.com] in Portland, OR, they have a floor on a suspension system [mcmenamins.com]. The whole thing moves under your feet a little. If you could harness it, you could probably generate just enough electricity to pump out the cigarette nimbus clouds that accumulate during concerts.
    • So you have to dance to power the music, but you have to have the music before you will want to dance?

      Although really, this could be similar to the kinetic energy used to recharge the batteries of some laptops (via the keyboard).
  • developed a sectional-torpedo-looking-thing as a means to transform the raw fury of the sea into electricity!

    Or, if you build one in Coney Island, the raw sewage of the sea, hypodermics and all.

    I used to live there. I know what I'm talking about. I used to live on the Jersey coast too, but that'd be too easy. :)

    Triv
  • Marine life (Score:3, Insightful)

    by B.D.Mills (18626) on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @07:03PM (#3196968)
    I'm just imagining what the marine life around these things will look like once they've been in place a few years. Far from being detrimental, they'll actually be prime real estate for marine life. They will provide shade and places for seaweed and other plant life to grow. A single piece of driftwood in the open ocean can attract a lot of marine life, so imagine what these babies will do.
  • by Heerscher (560008) on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @07:03PM (#3196970)
    This isn't the only wave-energy project currently in development. There's also a project by a Dutch company (AWS BV.), called the Archimedes Wave Swing. Their 6MW pilot plant is to be tested from April onwards in Portugal. It's a really interesting concept, using the law of Archimedes to generate power.

    You can find it at http://www.waveswing.com [waveswing.com]
  • by lkaos (187507) <anthony&codemonkey,ws> on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @07:07PM (#3196991) Homepage Journal
    I had heard something about this on NPR. I do not believe they indeed on trying to use the power to power homes and such, but instead, to run a desalinization plant to provide freshwater to remote places.

    It becomes cost effective because it would be overly expensive to provide power out to these remote areas which desparately need fresh water. It supposedly opens up a whole bunch of land to agriculture that was unusable before.

    I remember hearing about this being done before for some third world country but it failing miserably because of storms and such.

    Unfortunately, I don't seem to be able to find much info on google so I could be mistaken.
    • Speaking of desalinization - when I was in Aruba they had a desalinization plant for fresh water (which cost something like $3.00 a gallon or something high). The guide said that because the import salt and most things from the Netherlands, they just take the salt yanked out of the ocean and dump it right back in - right by the desalinization plant.

      WOW - you want to see some salty water. Andre the Giant could easily float :)
  • by Charles Dodgeson (248492) <jeffrey@goldmark.org> on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @07:08PM (#3196997) Homepage Journal
    People forget that just because some scheme gives you very low marginal costs it doesn't give you "free" (as in beer) electricity. Even with conventional gas fueled electricity generation, the cost of the fuel is not much of an issue. It is the cost of the building the plants in the first place that make the electricity costly.

    So while I'm happy to see a range of things working out as possibly viable, 750kW is not alot to get out of the resources that appear to be going into this.

    • I think tidal power is a great idea in some places where it would be profitable. I know of only a few such places, however. I don't think this is going to help the energy situation much. However, every little bit helps, as they say.
  • I read an interesting perspective on wave power from Dr. Peter M. Duesing regarding the exploitation of wave and tidal power here [cornell.edu] that basically says that its prospects of being a major contributor to large scale production are slight. On a small scale there are several [tripod.com] cases [murdoch.edu.au] that support localised usage.

    Regarding Ocean POwer Delivery, there is a pdf regarding their funding package available here [oceanpd.com].

    If their site goes down or if you don't want to click, here is the text clipped from the pdf:

    Press release

    Wave energy company Ocean Power Delivery secures £6m funding package

    Edinburgh-based wave energy company Ocean Power Delivery Ltd (OPD) today announced that is has secured £6m (EUR 9.8m) funding from an international consortium of venture capital companies led by Norsk Hydro Technology Ventures (NTV), the venture capital arm of Norway's largest industrial company and including 3i, Europe's leading venture capital company and Zurich-based Sustainable Asset Management (SAM). Each organisation provided an equal level of funding to produce the largest investment of its kind in a wave power company.

    The investment success builds on OPD's steady rise to prominence in the field and clears the way for the company to become the leading force in the sector.

    "This investment is the culmination of OPD's intensive four-year programme to develop the Pelamis concept, the funds secured today will allow us to demonstrate and commercialise the system," says Richard Yemm, Managing Director of OPD. "Wave energy represents a major commercial opportunity and we have positioned ourselves well to take advantage of this."

    The Pelamis is a long, thin, semi-submerged articulated structure composed of four cylindrical sections linked by hinged joints, the complete system is oriented head-on to incoming waves. The wave-induced motion of the joints is resisted by hydraulic rams, these pump fluid through hydraulic motors to drive electrical generators. A 750kW machine with a similar output to a modern wind turbine will be 150metres long and 3.5metres in diameter. An array of 40 Pelamis machines would provide enough power to supply the energy needs of 20,000 homes.

    OPD aims to have a working prototype producing electricity to the grid within the next two years.

    Many previous wave energy concepts have failed as they lack the inherent survivability of the Pelamis. The system uses the unique combination of a streamlined, low-profile form and proven technology from the offshore oil and gas sector to provide the required load-shedding and reliability to withstand the rigours of the marine environment.

    OPD has recently demonstrated the system at intermediate scale in the Firth of Forth as part of a UK DTI supported programme to address all key aspects of technical risk. Further DTI support in conjunction with today's investment will allow all elements of the full-scale system to be thoroughly tested this summer before being installed in the first full-scale demonstrator next year.

    In 1999 the company won a contract to install a pair of Pelamis machines off Islay within the Scottish Renewables Obligation and recently beat off stiff international competition to secure an agreement with BC Hydro, the Canadian West Coast utility, to carry out a full feasibility study for a 2MW scheme for installation off Vancouver Island during 2003.

    Graeme Sword, 3i director commented: "OPD has developed a leading renewable energy technology which positions the business to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities in the rapidly developing renewable energy market. The combination of this unique technology and strong management makes OPD an ideal fit for 3i in the development of our support for alternative energy technologies."

    "NTV's role is to seek exciting investments with venture capital financial returns, in arapidly evolving new energy economy." says Jørgen Rostrup, NTV's Managing Director. "We screened several wave energy machines around the world before finding Pelamis, and are delighted to work with OPD and our co-investors in commercialising this concept."

    "SAM is proud to be part of this exciting project in what we have identified as a highly promising new opportunity in the renewable energy space. Dr Richard Yemm has managed to gather an impressive group of talented people who have produced a design that stands out for successfully marrying robustness with efficiency," says Gianni Operto, principal of SAM Private Equity.

    ends 20 March 2002

    For further information please contact:

    Ocean Power Delivery Ltd

    Richard Yemm or Max Carcas

    Tel: +44 131 554 8444

    Email: enquiries@oceanpd.com

    Web: www.oceanpd.com
  • Forget about the problems of surfers crashing into these things -- what about a boat, I wondered? If a fishing trawler or passenger motorboat plowed through these things, they'd do serious damage to both themselves and the generators.

    Then it occurred to me that they'd obviously want to mark these things off, along with painting them fluorescent orange to make them easily visible, to keep stray boats out of the area. Then I wondered about the impact on the fishing industry if these become widespread. Then it hit me: they could mark off a section of the water and use it both for fish farming and power generation. Double the economic benefits, and now you only have to worry about fish pirates in stealth submarines.
  • by Miklos (33666)
    Back in the early 90s the danish inventor, Erik Skaarup, invented the wavebreaker and the design has been proven to work at an irish university.

    It has (according to the studies) somewhat better effectiveness than the one mentioned in this article.

    Read more here:

    http://www.waveplane.com/indexuk.htm

    - Miklos

    * good judgement comes from experience - experience comes from bad judgement *
  • Tides != Waves (Score:4, Informative)

    by PhotoGuy (189467) on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @07:24PM (#3197072) Homepage
    While this is far from being free energy, it is a pretty interesting way of deriving power from the tides.
    Actually, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think tides and waves are quite distinct. Waves are caused by wind across water (which is why they can vary greatly), while tides are caused by the pull of lunar gravity (and are very predictable). Tide tables are published years in advance, wave forecast are part of the daily weather forecast.

    The unit described makes use of the height difference across waves, and has nothing to do with tides, from what I can see.

    In the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, there is a small tidal power plan (experimental, I think). Basically as the tidal water flows in and flows out due to the big change in tides (highest in the world), power is generated.

    It seems to me that there is more potential (so to speak :-) in tidal energy, as the energy in moving massive amounts of relatively heavy water up and down six feet (or 20 in the case of the bay of Fundy) would be enormous.

    Of course, the construction costs to harness it, might be more than proportionately higher.

    It seems to me, one big advantage to the tides is that they're 100% reliable, whereas wave action (like wind, and solar) will vary based upon weather.

    -me
    • Can't seem to find the official link to the Annapolis Power Station (bay of Fundy), but this [ic.gc.ca] one is pretty good.


      Btw, if you ask nicely, they'll give you a tour of the innards. It's warm down there :)

  • This thing uses waves not tides. The device seems to consist of segmented, articulating, horizontal cylinders tethered to the ocean floor. There have also been suggestions for floating pistons and the like as well as large installations to use waves to move large amounts of trapped air. Tidal generation has the advantage of predictability but has the disadvantage of requiring larger/less modular installations. <Karma Whoring>There's a an overview of the different "large installation" techniques here [ecoliving.co.nz]. And a overview of smaller device wave generation techniques here. [umr.edu] </Karma Whoring>

    In my view, the main problem with solar/wind/tide/wave power generation is that we can't guarantee a steady flow of energy. Excess energy can't be stored for use when we need it. Solar energy is good as a supplementary source of energy for areas with high AC usage because when usually it's hot, the sun is out. But the problem still remains that we can't rely on any of these environmental energies for a constant flow of energy, which is what we need (Having lived in CA during the energy "shortage" recently, I know of what I speak).

    I think we should be spending more time/energy (hah) researching methods to store large amounts of energy. Flywheels seem to me to hold good promise of extremely high energy density, efficiency and simplicity compared to schemes involving batterie or water <-> H2+0 schemes. Just don't put any on geologically unstable areas... Any other good energy storage devices in our future?

    Oh yeah, I consider fusion research (hot/cold, laser pellet/toroidal plasma etc.) a huge waste of money and resources. We've already got a fusion reactor [nasa.gov], damnit!

  • I could use one of these in my waterbed. Harness the wave motion from.... uh that may be offtopic.
  • 1 square mile of COASTAL ocean to harness enough energy to power only 22,000 homes? What kind of environmental price is this? And why is the BC gov't buying it? I'm really confused on this one -- especially since Blue Energy [bluenergy.com] has been in operation here for years and has not been able to secure such a contract with a more powerful and environmentally responsible davis turbine setup to harness the ocean's currents which are very strong and predictable. As an added bonus, these systems can at the same time serve as a floating bridge. One such proposal has been made for the San Fransisco Bay. Check this stuff out!! (no I don't work for them, and don't have any financial interest there)
  • I wonder how these things will do during incliment weather. Guess I should go do some more reading. Heres another site about this type technology...:

    Wave Energy [wave-energy.net]

  • Cool! Surfs up! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WillSeattle (239206) on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @08:09PM (#3197301) Homepage
    Love the idea. On a practical level, we could power the entire world just from tidal energy - or even from the wind energy in the Western US or from the wind energy in the MidWest.

    While the tidal generator might not be proven, we know we can implement wind energy today. In fact, the whole Western US/Canada energy crisis caused us to build more alternative energy in the US/Canada in the last year than we had built in the entire previous century.

    A diversified energy supply would do us good - and locally-produced energy supplies are always better than energy from other sources. The more different sources we have, the less vulnerable to price fluctuations, the less vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

    Maybe I should pick up a board for use here in Seattle, huh? Got one in Santa Barbara CA and one in Mount Pleasant SC - might be fun to ride the pipe on the West Coast up in BC - heard the waves there are among the best in the world.

    -
    • What Canadian energy crisis?

      I am aware that in the United States that some states like California are experiencing an energy crunch that is making them buy energy from us in Canada.

      Canada does not face the same energy problems as you guys because of how they're managed. All of the provinces in Canada have crown-owned energy corporations (such as Quebec Hydro, B.C. Hydro, Ontario Power, etc...), though some provinces as mine (British Columbia) are considering to privatize some parts of the business.

      In the United States, though, some states such as California have deregulated their energy corporatations and have lost most of their power over them.

      And yes, the west coast of Vancouver Island is fun to surf and is a very nice place to visit (I live in Vancouver if you're curious).
  • by fifirebel (137361) on Wednesday March 20, 2002 @08:13PM (#3197322)

    Check out: http://membres.lycos.fr/larance/main1.html (french) [lycos.fr], http://www.edf.fr/html/fr/decouvertes/voyage/usine /usine_d.html (french) [www.edf.fr] or http://www.edf.fr/html/en/decouvertes/voyage/usine /retour-usine.html (english) [www.edf.fr].

    The 240 MW figure comes from this page [www.edf.fr]: the power plant contains 24 groups, eeach group able to ouput 10 MW.

  • What about getting energy from the temperature differences between the top and bottom of the ocean's water column? Or would that affect ecologies too much?
  • Cape Wind [capewind.org] is a project to place 175 wind turbines off the shore of Cape Cod Massachusetts on a shallow sand bank in Nantucket Sound.

    The turbines will stand 130 meters (426 feet) tall, are to be spread over 65 square kilometers (25 square miles) and supply up to 420 megawatts of power at peak. They'll be just visable from the shore at 8 kilometers (5 miles) distance where they should blur into the sea chop.

    Scheduled to begin construction in 2003 and be operationial by 2005 the $600 million project has thus far kept on track and met all impact reviews. It has proven to be particularly economically viable in the ecologically sensitive but rapidly growing Cape Cod area which has unusually high energy rates and a large volume of steady offshore winds.

    This isn't as unusual as wave turbines and the like (though it's size is notable) but it is a clever solution to the sound and sight pollution that have been issues with land-based wind farms. While not completely out-of-sight/out-of-mind these will be far enough from folks that they shouldn't be an issue. Furthermore these modern designs have incorporated lessons learned from previous generations and should be wildlife-friendly.

    • IIRC the Mass. offshore wind farm designs are based off of a design currently in use off the coast of England. I can't remember if it was this month's issue of Discovery or SciAm that mentioned these. I thought the idea was pretty cool because you don't have the obscene noise from the wind farm or the giant eyesore of it. You can also build downwind of the offshore farms with less worry than you could with a farm on land.
  • who drove the Exxon Valdez into Bligh Reef... it was a fully licensed, apparently sober, third mate who was qualified according to the US Coast Guard to be in charge of that ship in those waters. The job of guiding the ship from the pilot station to the exit of Prince William Sound at Cape Hinchinbrook should have been a no-brainer but the 3rd mate couldn't manage it despite having been told by a watchstander that the buoy marking the channel was on the wrong side of the ship.

    I don't know why everyone assumes that the Captain was responsible for this; Exxon required him to submit a plethora of reports as soon as the pilot disembarked and he went down to his cabin to do it. He was never convicted of any criminal activity or found guilty of any liability. The USCG officers who claimed they could smell alcohol on the Captain's breath were in an environment similar to standing with their noses up your gas tank filler opening; millions of gallons of volatile vapors making it so difficult to breathe that some crew members put Scott Air Packs on to get to the bridge.

    Statements like this are like declaring that your father is responsible for your car accident just because he is, after all, your father.
  • This thing looks like a maintenance nightmare. Big hinged floats driving gasketed hydraulic cylinders back-driving hydraulic motors driving electrical generators. Even in a benign environment, that would be a headache. This thing is supposed to work for years, in seawater, in the North Atlantic.

    Worse, all the working parts are at the water surface, where they get the most pounding and accumulate the most crud. Most ocean systems try to put the important stuff either well above or well below the waterline.

    Somebody is going to have to go out in a work boat and fix those turkeys, or tow them in for repair. Not fun.

Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself. -- A.H. Weiler

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