The UK government is financially backing an academic project generating wave energy. This type of clean energy is relatively new in the world and might be making inroads into the US too.
The Brits use gigantic black rubber snake-like devices moored on the waters just off the UK coasts. Aptly named Anaconda, the snake like devices, which are easily up to 200 meters long, use patented ' bulge' wave technology, reports the UK Register.
"Anaconda may be able to satisfy our insatiable demands," the Register reports.
And judging from the size of the machines, this might be no understatement. But nevertheless, the Register lists few technical specs. That partially is because this type of energy is still so new.
It is going to take at least another three years before any snakes will be positioned in the sea. The publication gives a rough indication of the power generated, saying it's thought to be around a full megawatt in the case of a full-sized Anaconda operating at peak levels.
Scientists at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and its business partner Checkmate SeaEnergy inform that the way Anaconda works is pretty simple. It really all revolves around a bulge in the rubber pipes. Every time a wave comes rolling up, the pipe's outside end (which is closed off and positioned just below the water's surface by means of a cable pinned down to the ground) will be squeezed by the weight of the water. This will result the tube to form a bulge. At the same time, the sea wave will continue to run along the outside of the tube which will squeeze it more and more and causing the bulge to get bigger and bigger. The spurt's inherent energy is transformed on-site by a hydropower turbine attached to the other end of the tube. It's as simple as it sounds.
US scientists believe that wave power has a future in the US too. Pipes could be moored in US coastal waters, which are known to have wave energy resources of 2,100 terawatt hours annually. That equates to half the US electricity consumption, according to Roger Bedard of the Electric Power Research Institute, a not for profit think tank sponsored by energy companies.
But Bedard said that government support is still lacking for wave power and there are also considerable regulatory hurdles in the US.Technology Review runs a report about Anaconda outlining that if the scientists manage to operate it at peak capacity, the one megawatt of power will come in at a cost of 12 cents a kilowatt hour. This is competitive in comparison with electricity generated by other wave power stations.
One Anaconda tube is made of around 110 tons of rubber and this is where the technology is likely better than competing wave power devices. The rubber is lighter and cheaper than other wave-exploiting designs, according to John Chaplin, a civil-engineering professor at the University of Southampton.
Chaplin told Technology Review earlier this month that even though the technology has only been tested in labs thus far it's very promising because it is simple and almost maintenance free.
We don't really know how Anaconda works in big waves yet, but intuitively, it seems likely that it's going to be able to survive big waves," he Chaplin was quoted as saying.
The world's first wave power producer was a Scottish company called Pelamis Wave Powerwhich developed a snakelike projectile off the coast of the Scottish Orkney islands in 2004, feeding power to the grid. The company also runs three 750 kilowatt snakes in Portuguese coastal waters whose metal cylinders weigh 770 ton and are 120m long.
North American competors of Checkmate SeaEnergy and Pelamis Wave Power are focusing their efforts also on tidal energy and buoy-type devices. They include Canada's FinaVera and Ocean Power Technologies of Pennington, NJ. OPT was reportedly testing bobbing buoy-type devices.