Invention Could Make Wave Energy More Efficient than Wind or Solar

June 13, 2018 at 12:22 pm

A few of these bouys could power New York City by bobbing up and down on the waves.

Wave energy is more reliable than solar, more powerful than wind and about half the cost to produce.

Scientists have been trying to harness the massive energy in ocean waves since the 18th century.

Since the 1990s, they’ve been close, in a race to come up with a device that could capture massive amounts of electricity without getting destroyed by the ocean’s pounding swells, punishing winds and corrosive salt water.

Finally, there’s a device made by a Finnish company that might be the golden ticket to making ocean wave energy a more powerful, more reliable and less expensive renewable energy option than either solar or wind.

It’s called The Penguin. A boat-shaped buoy, it bobs up and down on the waves collecting kinetic energy with zero emissions.

Test vessel in Scotland

It’s makers say it’s designed to work in harmony with the ocean, without disturbing the water’s natural movement or marine life, and without creating any visual or noise pollution.

The Penguin has been tested successfully in Scotland for 6 years, and the company that makes it, Wello, just got it’s first big commercial deal in Bali, where a handful of the small vessels will provide 10 MW of electricity, enough to power New York City.

What makes The Penguin different from all the previous failed inventions is that all the moving parts are inside the vessel, rotating just by being rocked around, rather than the direct impact of the waves, which tend to erode them pretty quickly.

Wello hit its $2 million crowdfunding goal in February, just after receiving it’s first commercial order for a wave energy park in Bali and it’s second commercial order for several Penguins in China.

European researchers see The Penguin as a potential game changer for Europe and the whole world. The company claims the cost of making the devices is already equal to the cost of wind energy, and says serial production would cut that cost in half.

“Once all these sources and all these technologies are in use, in full use, I think the whole of Europe and not only Europe but the world is going to be a whole different place,” said Wello’s Chief Operating Officer Timo Lotti.

“There’s a tremendous amount of energy in an ocean wave,” says University of Victoria engineering professor Brad Buckham in the video below.

Water is 800 times denser than air, so waves carry more energy than wind per volume, he explains. One meter wide section of one wave is so powerful it can provide 40 KW of energy, which could power 20 homes.

A 25 kilometer stretch of coastline can provide a gigawatt of electricity, enough to power a city the size of Seattle, he says.-

“If we built a giant solar plant where we’re standing right now it would be fantastic today,” Buckham says. “Tomorrow? Maybe not so much. But tomorrow when the clouds roll in, and the waves come up, there’s another source of renewable energy we can tap into.”

Buckham believes the only way humans can replace fossil fuels and cut green house gas emissions enough to avoid catastrophe is by getting all the renewable energy sources working in harmony together.