An innovative wave power device developed by WET-NZ is set to head to Hawaii for a full year of testing, after initial trials off the Oregon coast in August.
As well as the Hawaii testing, WET-NZ intends to test a half-scale prototype off the south coast of Wellington, New Zealand for a least a year, starting early in 2013. After early development in New Zealand, the new wave power device won a $1.8 million competitive funding grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The wave energy converter has been developed into a second-generation device in Oregon in partnership with Northwest Energy Innovations (NWEI). Over time, it is hoped that such devices will be able to withstand the extreme winter surf conditions found in locations like Oregon. However, the technology is not ready for testing in those conditions, so this second generation device is heading to Hawaii for testing in “softer” conditions during the northern winter. Off the Oregon coast, massive 60-foot swells are not unheard of during the winter.
The WET-NZ device has a floating buoy inside a fixed cylinder, and the relative motion is able to drive energy converters. This kind of wave device is called a “point absorber”. What’s innovative about this particular device is that its float is able to rotate continuously and to oscillate. This enables the device to harness energy from both kinds of movement. It should also be less likely to become “over-stressed at the extremes of motion” (like in 60-foot swells). This has been an issue with some other wave power technologies so far.
The new round of testing in Hawaii will take place at the U.S. Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site in Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu. According to NWEI’s Justin Clune, initial testing of the device in Oregon went according to plan and objectives were met.
This is good news for the future of wave power, and for the world in general. We could certainly do with all the new renewable energy developments we can get, and wave power seems to hold a lot of potential. I’m sure nobody doubts the power the oceans of the world hold. We just need to learn to tap into it.