I’ve always been intrigued with harnessing power from waves. There’s something extremely powerful when imagining the raw energy behind the massive gravitational force the moon provides. Our very oceans bulge daily at its beck and call.
But harnessing this power has proved challenging – until now. Recent technological breakthroughs and applications of old concepts to the newly formed “wave farms” approach has created large leaps in how commercialization of tidal energies. You need proof? The first wave to grid energy system goes online this year in Australia.
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Tidal Power vs Wave Power
Using the tides to get work accomplished is nothing new. Devices dating back to Roman times harnessed tide waters into pools. When the tides lowered, the escaping waters drove grain mills – not unlike the more familiar water wheels. In fact, the first full scale tidal power station opened in 1966 in France. Tidal power is very predictable in that we know right when the tides will come in and can develop systems to harness the water and direct its flow to generate electricity.
Wave power generation is a bit more complicated. The ideal location for wave generation devices is way off shore where the longer waves are formed and where fewer obstructions exist that can damage equipment. There are dozens of methods for harnessing waves depending upon the location and format of the energy harnessing system, but most systems float on top the surface and have some part of their architecture under the surface.
Wave to Grid…Finally!
(Image Credit: Carnegie Wave Energy)
Due to the complexities and fairly new technology surrounding wave energy, we haven’t seen a great deal of application in this field. Australia was the first to roll out a wave to grid system – electricity from wave energy pumped right into their electrical grid. This breakthrough will hopefully lead to a great deal of research and improved technology for others communities interested in harnessing wave power.
The Perth-based project by Carnegie Wave Energy is predicted to be a 20MW facility built around the CETO line of generators. Each of the CETO units would stand about 70 feet tall if on land. The entire system is submerged underwater. As waves make the top of the system rise and fall, electricity is generated and pumped onshore. An added benefit is that the CETO desalinates water as part of the electricity generation process.
As more wave energy products are developed, we will report on those here and keep you informed. If you see breaking news in this area, be sure to let us know!
Check out this animation from Carnegie showing how their system in Perth will operate: