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Wave Power Generation
March 2, 2004 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Ocean Power Technologies is one of the leading Ocean Wave Power alternative energy companies. The technology is simple to understand, easy to deploy and costs about the same as fossil fuel power 3 to 4 cents. OPT just signed a deal for a 1M farm off the coast of Spain with a 100M farm by 2006, a major step forward for wave power generation.
posted by stbalbach (16 comments total)

 
neet
posted by delmoi at 4:09 PM on March 2, 2004


I've heard of this. I think it's a very neat technology that can produce clean and abundant energy. It's unfortunate that it can only be used in certain places, tho. I hope more companies look to this to produce energy. With so many ways to produce energy, why do still embrace the old, nature-destroying ways?
posted by ashbury at 6:36 PM on March 2, 2004


With so many ways to produce energy, why do [we] still embrace the old, nature-destroying ways?

Because they're cheaper and it's easier to develop economies of scale. In addition, oil, coal, gas etc. can be shipped to the intended point of use. That's not a trivial advantage.

Alternative power sources will gradually become more important, but it's going to take a while. In the meantime, insulate your dwelling and either get a hybrid car or don't drive unless there are a couple other people in the vehicle with you.
posted by aramaic at 6:44 PM on March 2, 2004


On a different marine technology(*), the lead scientist remarked that the #1 problem in any marine tech is "biologicals". Anything and everything you do on the ocean will seemingly have tremendous interaction, either screwing up the lifeforms, or screwing up the technology.

Just wondering.

(*) A current project to use vertical windmills to pump a spray of ocean water into the air off a coast. The spray in some way makes evaporation from the ocean surface easier, which sends lots more humidity, and possibly precipitation, inland. At least that's the theory.
posted by kablam at 7:22 PM on March 2, 2004


I'd be interested to know if this could be used as a money generator for economically disadvantaged places like Atlantic Canada. The fishing industry is on its deathbed, so we need to do something productive with our bounty of water.
posted by will at 10:44 PM on March 2, 2004


The biggest hurdle that I see facing most alternative power generation methods is that they are dependent on the prevailing weather conditions to work effectively. Until a method can be found that will work as well in the middle of a raging cyclone or in the dead of night as it does on milder days, alternative methods will struggle to compete with fossil fuel plants, which are effectively isolated from and independent of the weather. This (and other alternatives) is an excellent start though, and I wish them every success.
posted by dg at 11:31 PM on March 2, 2004


<obscure_reference>
I think the CORE and the ARM both have this technology, so neither will have an advantage on ocean worlds. </obscure_reference>
posted by moonbiter at 11:34 PM on March 2, 2004


Ocean Power Technologies is one of the leading Ocean Wave Power alternative energy companies.

I don't think you can back this up. From their website they're not any further advanced with their technology than a lot of other companies in the field.

With so many ways to produce energy, why do [we] still embrace the old, nature-destroying ways?

Because they're cheaper and it's easier to develop economies of scale. In addition, oil, coal, gas etc. can be shipped to the intended point of use. That's not a trivial advantage.


And because generally we don't attach enough economic disbenefits to the environmental disadvantages of fossil fuels.

I'd be interested to know if this could be used as a money generator for economically disadvantaged places like Atlantic Canada.

Maybe, do you see the technology as a useful source of electricity which you can sell or as a useful new manufacturing industry for the area. It would help if you have a reasonable level of local population, have a history of manufacturing and are prepared to invest in the technology with funds to generate a local market for the technology.
posted by biffa at 2:45 AM on March 3, 2004


dg - if you read the FPP it addresses these issues. The availability % of wave power is similar to that of fossil fuel, there are also some neat maps of power potential around the worlds oceans, Maritime Atlantic Canada is pretty high BTW, will.
posted by stbalbach at 7:59 AM on March 3, 2004


I don't think you can back this up.

The last link Yahoo article discusses the market position of the company biffa, if you care to comment.
posted by stbalbach at 8:06 AM on March 3, 2004


" The technology is simple to understand, easy to deploy and costs about the same as fossil fuel power 3 to 4 cents." - therefore, we'll have to ignore it until a crisis hits - at which point we'll invoke "National Security" to steal this patent copyright so we can throw billions at Exxon-Mobil and GE to bang out an incompetent knockoff
posted by troutfishing at 8:26 PM on March 3, 2004


But - on a more serious note - Julian Simon was right on this, at least ; the human genius for invention is extreme. But Simon missed a key point - the human inventive genius is counterbalanced by our instinctual but now pointless cultural conservatism.

From what I have read on Metafilter and learned elsewhere, I could sketch out at least a dozen valid, relatively low tech solutions to wean the modern world off petrochemically provided energy. But ideas - at least of this sort - are not the bottleneck.

We do not lack for brilliant solutions, but for something else altogether......

_______________________________________________

That said, I'm always inspired by this sort of post.
posted by troutfishing at 8:35 PM on March 3, 2004


Also I wonder if - deployed on a vast scale - these things (the small ocean-power buoy-generators) could dampen some of the increased energy of Global Warming?
posted by troutfishing at 8:39 PM on March 3, 2004


I'd think it would be more likely that if deployed on a vast scale (ie, multiple terawatts/year), they'd do something weird and probably bad to coastal ecologies. Extracting a noticeable amount of the kinetic energy that gets dumped into coastal areas might be bad -- if there are tidal zones, sediments might not get mixed as much, reducing nutrients, or reducing wave-pounding of coastlines might reduce mineral flows into the surrounding coastal waters that sea plants need, or whatever.

Which isn't to say that it's not worth trying, or doing to one degree or another. Just that -- like anything else you could imagine to generate power -- it's going to be imperfect and have some negative environmental consequences. go nukes, as part of the plan.

I don't see how they could dampen anything. Left alone, the kinetic energy will eventually get turned into thermal energy dumped into the atmosphere. Buoys will extract some of that energy and turn it into electricity. Then we'll use the electricity to do work, throwing energy back into the atmosphere as waste heat. Using them as dampers by generating electricity seems to work on the level of Red Mars, where they use windmills to power heaters to heat up Mars.

If anything, wouldn't you want to extract atmospheric thermal energy, dump it seaward, and turn it into stronger ocean currents if you wanted to damp the storms?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:06 PM on March 3, 2004


ROU_Xenophobe - By golly, you're right. Silly me. It's a zero sum equation.

Hmmm - stronger ocean currents to damp the storms. I'll have to mull that one over for a bit.
posted by troutfishing at 2:06 PM on March 4, 2004


article discusses the market position of the company biffa, if you care to comment.

Sorry about the delay. A 1MW piece of apparatus is no more than a pilot plant at this level. Other companies are at the same level, see for example, Orecon, and Ocean Power Delivery come to mind. There is a list of companies here which are involved in wave energy device design /R&D. IIRC there are supposedly some other companies researching in Portugal but I'd have to do some proper research to get more details on them.

The ambition to have a 100MW installation is no more than that until the technology is proven in situ and someone is convinced its useful enough for them to be prepared to stump up for that level of investment. There has been disappointment aplenty in this technology field before.

This page has a simple guide to different types of wave energy conversion devices.

I agree with ROU that care needs to be taken with with siting, open ocean might not a problem but coastal and channel areas need to be properly modelled to prevent severe ecological changes. Happily the RE community tends to be wise to this. The Middelgrunden offshore wind farm in the Oresund (the channel between Copenhagen and southern Sweden) carried out an in- depth assessment Environmental Impact Assessment which suggested that there would be a 0.0012% decrease in water flow in the channel as a result of the wind farms foundations and that this had the potential to impact on cod breeding cycles in the Baltic. To compensate they removed 4000cubic metres of the sea bed.
posted by biffa at 7:48 AM on March 5, 2004


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