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Power Science

Scotland Building Wave Power Farms 211

Posted by Zonk
from the rats-water-and-wind-now-we-need-to-harness-dorks dept.
eldavojohn writes "Scottish engineers are taking advantage of the huge ocean coast that Scotland enjoys by building a 'wave farm' to harvest electricity from the ocean's powerful waves. These big red tubes have been named the Pelamis System after a sea snake. Max Carcas, the business developer for the firm, says it is 'a bit like a ship at anchor or a flag on a flagpole, it self orientates into the waves ... Waves then travel down the length of the machine and in doing so each of the sections, each of these train carriages, moves up and down and side to side.' These snake-like movements push hydraulic fluid through generators to produce electricity."
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Scotland Building Wave Power Farms

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday March 02, 2007 @02:00PM (#18209826) Journal
    Back in 2005, Slashdot covered this [slashdot.org] but the company has made great strides since then [oceanpd.com] (flash animation of the Pelamis System [oceanpd.com]).

    If you think this idea is new, it is not. The patents for this technology go all the way back to the 1970s.[1] [uspto.gov] [2] [uspto.gov]

    As was noted in the original discussion on this topic,

    The European Union requires 22 percent of electricity consumption to come from renewable energy sources -- such as solar, wind and wave -- by 2010.
    Which explains why you'll see this more and more in the news. Some of the countries in Europe have energy generation from wind & waves up to 10% or 15% but 2010 is getting closer and closer.

    Everyone recognizes that it's not smart to put all your eggs in one basket and right now a lot of countries are pretty dependent on oil. With a possible energy crisis or global warming problem, wave power looks like it will be one of the many solutions that each country will develop to mitigate their problems.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cuby (832037)
      The first experimental power station is working in Portugal since May 2006, and it is made from the same palamis system. As far as I know, until now, they didn't publish any results yet. This may indicate that this technology is worthful.
    • The patents for this technology go all the way back to the 1970s.[1] [2]
      Hence the fact that it's only emerging now.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Frozen Void (831218)
        Another proof that patents and copyrigths are the enemy of humanity(but very profitable for the elite few).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MobyDisk (75490)
        Is there any evidence that the companies that hold the patents on this held the patents to prevent others from using them? I would be very interested to know this. If it is true, I think it is important to expose. If it is false, then this is a troll-ish statement just to upset the Slashdot anti-patent crowd.
      • Either that, or the technology to build a practical, useful version of what the patent describes wasn't developed until recently.
    • ... a funny story about a multi-million pound jack-up barge and an uncharted reef.
  • Power output? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SilentOneNCW (943611) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {nogardtnelis}> on Friday March 02, 2007 @02:01PM (#18209854) Homepage
    We just had a environmentalist come to our school to talk about alternate energy sources (this is in the UK), and according to him, these systems will only produce one megawatt of power per unit*, comparable to wind turbines. While there is a lot more space in the water to be taken up by power-generators than on land, I've got to wonder how much energy has gone into producing, designing, and deploying this system. With such a low output per unit, is it even worthwhile? * Again, this is not coming from a really reputable source, just some environmental campaigner. Anyone know any real statistics for these type of systems?
    • I've got to wonder how much energy has gone into producing, designing, and deploying this system.

      That is an interesting factoid, but irrelevant to the decision of whether or not to deploy. The R&D is a "sunk cost", the money/energy is gone and can not be recovered.
    • With such a low output per unit, is it even worthwhile?

      One thing to consider is that wave based systems could conceivably be hidden, unlike wind based systems. Wind turbine projects in the US are often stalled or canceled because someone's view is going to be affected. Ideally the wave based units would be well below the surface and therefore not a navigational hazard, and therefore deployable over a wider area. In other words, we'll make up for the low output with volume. :)
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        One thing to consider is that wave based systems could conceivably be hidden, unlike wind based systems.

        If you're deriving energy from currents, this is true. But if you're getting it from wave action, you want to be as close to the surface as possible, because that's where the greatest amount of available kinetic energy is located - literally at the boundary between water and air.

        If you hid the system JUST below the water, that would be okay - but then it would be a hazard to navigation of small craft. S

        • by spun (1352)
          I think what he meant was that these generators will not be as intrusively visible as wind farms, which are often situated on ridges where they are visible for miles around. Wind farms are notorious for generating NIMBYism.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mrchaotica (681592) *

            See, that's what I don't get: what's so ugly about a wind farm? Now, I've never actually seen one in person, but they look pretty nice in the pictures...

      • I'm just waiting for some environmental group to start whining about these, too. They complain that windmills kill too many birds. I would put money on someone coming forth and claiming one of several detriments, such as the anchor cables are entangling whales, or the anchors and power cables back to shore (shore ties) are destroying habitat, or they might leak oil, or, or....that these things are shielding too much sunlight (blocking photosynthesis in plankton or something).

        Honestly, I think it's a g

        • "I'm just waiting for some environmental group to start whining about these, too."

          Sure there are plenty of NIMBY's, but they come from all walks of life and politics not just the environmental fringe, for example do you want to live within earshot of a windfarm or do you want it hidden from view by the ocean's horizon?

          "They complain that windmills kill too many birds."

          Here in Australia the last group to "complain that windmills kill too many birds" was the conservative federal government who put a
        • They complain that windmills kill too many birds.

          No, old windmills kill too many birds. They keep making the newer ones bigger and bigger, which not only is more efficient, but also causes them to spin slower which, in turn, allows the birds to avoid them.

      • Very true. Hidden large systems are generally ok. Remember it's our perception of the environment that keys the popular reaction, thus acceptability in the populace who must underwrite the venture.

        An important little factoid that skews a lot of initiatives is threat substitution, i.e. replacing the truthful "Large wind farms will spoil our unspoilt horizon" with an equally truthful "even at 1 fatality per year, it could wipe out the Orange-Bellied Parrot". The first option was the true source of popular c

    • In September of 2006, a company (E.ON UK) had a proposal together [oceanpd.com] that claimed "a potential 5MW wave power project in the sea off Cornwall."

      I'm not entirely sure if the 5MW is per unit but, from the Wikipedia page on wave power [wikipedia.org]:

      The formula below shows how wave power can be calculated. Excluding waves created by major storms, the largest waves are about 15 meters high and have a period of about 15 seconds. According to the formula, such waves carry about 1700 kilowatts of potential power across each met

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by smaddox (928261)
        When have you ever seen a wave 15meters high excluding major storms?
        • by Gordonjcp (186804)
          When have you ever seen a wave 15meters high excluding major storms?

          Regularly, off the north-west coast of Scotland. These sea snakes are being built in relatively shelterd waters. Not all the world has the mild weather of the south-western US...
  • by bluekanoodle (672900) on Friday March 02, 2007 @02:03PM (#18209890)
    Scientists have been doing research on this off the coast of Oregon as well.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0915/p02s02-usgn.htm l [csmonitor.com]

  • Scotland != Portugal (Score:5, Informative)

    by kindbud (90044) on Friday March 02, 2007 @02:04PM (#18209898) Homepage

    "Scottish engineers are taking advantage of the huge ocean coast that Scotland enjoys by building a 'wave farm'....


    In Portugal. From TFA:

    Scottish engineers will soon deploy an offshore "wave farm" in Portugal.

    They have also signed a deal to build an even larger farm in Scottish waters.

    Construction of the wave farm in Portugal has been underway for the past year in a busy shipyard in the Portuguese coastal town of Peniche.
  • 'Bout time that good for nothing sea pulled its weight.

    I mean, what's it ever done for us? Nothing!

    Generating a little electricity will only start repaying what its mother and I have given it over the years.

    Now if we could just get it to move out of our basement or start paying rent...
    Geez!
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Friday March 02, 2007 @02:13PM (#18210012) Homepage Journal
    Ocean Power [oceanpower...logies.com] is currently installing their Utility-sized bouys off the Oregon Coast, with the first 14 being a 2MW power plant for the city of Reedsport (providing about a quarter of the needed electricity for that resort community). The BBC article doesn't say what the expected output of the Scottish plant, using different technology, would be. Anybody know how the power output compares?
  • by thewiz (24994) * on Friday March 02, 2007 @02:25PM (#18210186)
    "We canna create any more power, Captain! They're wiggling as fast as they can!"
  • by LotsOfPhil (982823) on Friday March 02, 2007 @02:38PM (#18210370)
    Public Radio International had a 5 minute piece on this a few weeks ago. You can listen here [theworld.org] if you can play wma.
  • by aapold (753705) on Friday March 02, 2007 @02:40PM (#18210404) Homepage Journal
    Is no one concerned about the potential impact this will have, by providing a drag on the waves that would else naturally strike the coast, thus potentially reducing the habitat for species adatped to the wave-heavy environment of Scotland's coast? What about the mollusks and other marine invertebrates who can only spread and prosper via wave transort...

    Its just like those people who advocate wind power and never consider the impact of slowing down the world's winds, thus reducing the natural spread of wind-bourne seeds and so on...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by JoshDM (741866)
      Is no one concerned about the potential impact this will have, by providing a drag on the waves that would else naturally strike the coast...?

      IANAS, but (1) there's not enough of these to have any forseeable impact at the moment and (2) ocean movement energy is supplied by the tides, which are powered by gravitational forces between the earth, sun and the moon. So if anything, this is solar power. :D
    • You can't "run out" of wind or "stop" wind by using wind energy any more than you can "use up" a river with a mill wheel. Wind is pretty much just the atmosphere trying to correct pressure differentials caused by uneven heating and cooling caused by solar radiation. So really it's just a kinetic form of solar power :-P
      • by evilviper (135110)

        You can't "run out" of wind or "stop" wind by using wind energy any more than you can "use up" a river with a mill wheel.

        You can indeed run out of wind, slowing it down to nearly nothing with enough windmills. Ditto for "a mill wheel". Each one removes energy from the water, changes the environment up and downstream. With enough of them, the water will practically come to a stop and never reach its destination.

        The OP's claims are still bullshit. Using wind-power doesn't mean we need to use 100% of it...

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by MajinBlayze (942250)

          You can indeed run out of wind, slowing it down to nearly nothing with enough windmills. Ditto for "a mill wheel". Each one removes energy from the water, changes the environment up and downstream. With enough of them, the water will practically come to a stop and never reach its destination.
          I'm trying to picture how this would look in the headlines: "Too many watermills: water dissappears from rivers!"
          • by evilviper (135110)

            "Too many watermills: water dissappears from rivers!"

            It wouldn't disappear, of course. It would be trapped upstream, causing plenty of environmental issues there, and completely drying up the river further downstream.
            • No it wouldn't; it would have to be let flow downstream or else you aren't getting any power out of the mills. In fact, because of that you realistically couldn't approach using "100%" of the energy in the river anyway. The only real consequence would be that you slowed down the river, which would cause sediment to build up and eventually turn it into a meandering river with a flood plain.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by agbinfo (186523)
            That's nothing.

            A much bigger problem is that the waves are generated by the pull from the moon (or so I was told). If we reduce the amount or amplitude of ocean waves, this could have an effect on the moon.

            Think about it... just like current can create a magnetic field and a magnetic field can create a current, the gravitational pull from the moon is creating waves.

            If we stop these waves, the moon's orbit could change.

            We will all die because we wanted to create clean energy.

            Let's stop this madness

        • by njh (24312)
          Actually, you can only extra 2/3 of the energy from the wind or water (which led Carnot to his famous cycle).
      • In fact, wind farms do take energy out of the wind. All things being equal, if you build a second wind farm immediately downwind from an existing wind farm, the second one will not generate as much electricity as the first.

        Likewise, wave farms take energy out of waves. Shoreside of a wave farm, wave amplitude will be smaller; the wave farm "stills the waters" to some extent.

        These things do indeed have environmental impact. To name an example that the original poster didn't: the reduced-amplitude waves
    • by Bryansix (761547)
      I'm sure that wind farms do not get even close to making up for the gain in wind because of deforestation due to clear cutting for logging.
    • by FuryG3 (113706)
      Off the top of my head, it seems like the best place to implement these would be in places where you would be artificially altering the coastline anyway. Ports and harbors would be a good example, or the areas surrounding landfills.

      Levees, such as those in New Orleans, are built to keep the harsh waves at bay, and something which absorbed them like this would be extremely beneficial. You're building the levee and disrupting marine life anyway, so you may as well do it in a way which reduces your environme
  • by Lurker2288 (995635) on Friday March 02, 2007 @02:50PM (#18210588)
    So, this whole system is just a series of tubes?
  • The problem I have with wave power is that it takes energy out of the oceanic eco system. What effects is that going to have ten years down the road?
  • No, really. It isn't.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wes33 (698200)
      Orientate \O"ri*en*tate\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Orientated; p. pr. & vb. n. Orientating.] [From Orient.] [1913 Webster] 1. To place or turn toward the east; to cause to assume an easterly direction, or to veer eastward. [1913 Webster]
      • by BoberFett (127537)
        Perhaps, but find someone who actually uses in that context rather than simply a bastardization of the word 'orientation' instead of using 'orient' as they should.
        • find someone who actually uses in that context rather than simply a bastardization of the word 'orientation' instead of using 'orient' as they should.

          That's a bit like saying 'petrol' is a bastardised version of 'gas.' I was always taught to 'orientate' my map. Makes more sense than 'Orient' your map, because then 'Orientation' should be 'Oriention.' Similar word to 'rotate,' you don't just 'rote.' I'm surprised you're getting so upset about this, must be a UK English v US English thing.

    • "Orientate" isn't a word
      Actually, it is.
      • by arodland (127775)
        Yeah, I know it is. And it's even considered somewhat acceptable. But it's still an ignorant backformation, and there's no reason to use it when "orient" exists. You don't invent verbs "accusate", "affirmate", "causate", "compilate", "damnate", "deportate", or "exclamate" (to pick a few nonexistent words from the dictionary), why "orientate"?
  • Some offshore oil platforms (that aren't foundations on the seafloor) use hydraulic feedback lifters to rock their bottoms against the rising waves, keeping their platforms level even in heavy seas. Is there a version of that system which can power itself from the energy coming from those waves. Maybe with a little power against friction to keep the seesaw net action balanced.

    Is there a cheap system (<$100K) I could use for a floating home of my own, even if I have to invent the feedback power system mys
  • by Bertie (87778) on Friday March 02, 2007 @03:30PM (#18211110)
    There are plans afoot to harness the ridiculously powerful tides of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, and build a turbine of similar generating power to this contraption. The tide there sometimes moves as fast as you can jog.Here's a BBC report [bbc.co.uk] on it.
  • I like this kind of technology. With the right engineering, I don't imagine fishies are going to get hurt. They're usually smart enough to swim around things.

    I like metaphor. --The Celts are the first to benefit from 'Wave' energy, eh?

    Interesting.


    -FL

"Why can't we ever attempt to solve a problem in this country without having a 'War' on it?" -- Rich Thomson, talk.politics.misc

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