UK Dyson Award picks wave power generator

UK Dyson Award picks wave power generator

( —The wind generates sea waves and that energy has scientists interested in how to harness that power, in a field called wave energy. Harnessing energy from the waters has the potential to be an exceptionally environmentally benign form of generating electricity, energy generation sources in the mainstream energy production industry but just how remains an area of exploration. According to BBC News, some wave power approaches present limitations because they only work best when waves travel in one direction, and are less efficient in turbulent seas. Enter the Renewable Wave Power (RWP), a multi-axis wave power generator that performs well under any sea conditions, and which has picked up the UK round of the James Dyson Award. This is an international design award, presenting cash prizes, to promising next-generation design engineers. The RWP picked up the UK award and its next round will be the international finals.

RWP is defined as a semi-submersible multi-axis converter, specifically designed to run in the Orkneys, in Scotland.

The RWP device can absorb forces from "peaks and troughs" of the North Atlantic waves in any given direction. That ability to leverage the forces of waves no matter which way the water is churning is what has attracted much attention. The creator is Sam Etherington. He has found that "It is better to work with the forces than to repel them."

How does it work? A long chain of loosely linked pistons draw power from the tidal waters that flow unpredictably. Energy is generated as the chain flexes in high and low points of each wave. As part of the project, data was taken from buoys moored in the Orkney Islands and used to make waves in a water tank at Lancaster University.

RWP has gone through multiple simulations and CAD iterations. Etherington said the device was partly inspired from his experiences kite surfing and sailing off the coast of Cumbria in Northwest England, where he saw how waves in the sea did not often travel in a predictable way. He was also reminded of the sheer power of and their potential to generate . Writing in Made in Brunel site of Brunel University in London, where Etherington studied mechanical design, he commented on his motivation to start the project.

"It seems like an enormous waste to not use all this natural power that's available all the time every day. We only use about, less than a percent of the available resources around the UK anyway so given that we need extra electricity over the coming years it might be something interesting to explore."

Further tests are planned to demonstrate his device's efficacy. Commenting on the device's future, Dr. David Forehand of the Institute for Energy Systems, a research institute in the engineering school at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC News that "The real test for a device is its cost of energy."

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Sep 15, 2013
Sounds like a good idea. Except, when one start to calm the aggressor you become the aggressor. In the long run it may not be a good idea to have multiple (many, many,...) of these chained pistons all over our seas. The effect will calm down the presently unaffected wild seas. And who knows what will become? There is a reason for those rough seas.

Sep 15, 2013
I wonder if what Milou is talking about is taken into account with these sorts of energy sources... I would imagine that sort of thing would have been studied in detail with regards to hydro energy... but what about wind, solar and wave energy? How much wind energy can we capture before it starts to cause problems because there's not enough wind for things that need wind... How much solar energy can we capture before it starts to cause problems because there's not enough light falling on things that need light... etc. etc. The answers might be ridiculous... like having to cover a quarter of the earth in wind turbines before it's a problem... but it would be interesting and fun to know what sort of limits there are!

Sep 15, 2013
@tigger - with hydroeectricity we have already dammed the best wild river and had a major impact.

Wang and Pirnn at MIT evaluated wind a few years back and found that meeting all our energy needs with wind would have significant impacts on the wind and on the temperature.

For solar the amount of land is small - 10% of Arizona could power the entire U.S. (if we had better transmission and especially storage). And in the desert plants are water-limited rather than sun-limited so the plants around the solar collectors would make up for the loss under the collectors. But solar still needs to come down in cost (if current trends keep up it will be low enough cost to compete without subsidies in less than a decade).

Sep 16, 2013
This concept is totally unoriginal and disproven by previous models to fail if implemented. How an award was given for this re-tread of old technology is the real mystery.

Sep 16, 2013
Why not combine these things with solar and wind capture as well? I like the idea of getting all the energy we can in an all-in-one device. Imagine if you could setup energy stations that would absorb wind, solar, and wave energy, all at one time in one place. There would most likely be one of these sources active at any given time, and it would conserve space as opposed to separating the technologies. It might be possible to have them all tie into a single generator, instead of having multiple generators. Just a thought, but sounds logical to me.

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