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Australia Power Hardware Technology

Ocean Energy Tech To Be Tested Off Australian Coast 103

Posted by Soulskill
from the wave-of-the-future dept.
cylonlover writes "The researchers at Australia's BioPower Systems evidently looked at kelp, and thought, 'what if we could use that swaying action to generate power?' The result was their envisioned bioWAVE system: 'At the base of each bioWAVE system would be a triangular foundation, keeping it anchored to the sea floor. Extending up from the middle of that foundation would be a central column, topped with multiple blades — these would actually be more like a combination of the kelp's blades and floats, as they would be cylindrical, buoyant structures that just reach to the surface. The column would join the foundation via a hinged pivot, allowing it to bend or swivel in any direction. Wave action (both at the surface and below) would catch the blades and push them back and forth, in turn causing the column to move back and forth relative to the foundation. This movement would pressurize fluid within an integrated hydraulic power conversion module, known as an O-Drive. The movement of that fluid would spin a generator, converting the kinetic energy of the waves into electricity, which would then be delivered to shore via subsea cables.'"
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Ocean Energy Tech To Be Tested Off Australian Coast

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  • Diffuseness and environmental considerations will keep this from being a significant source of energy. Bank on it.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      I think the lack of oceans might be more of an issue here in Saskatchewan, but I like the concept and hope it works for them as well as planned.

      • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @11:59PM (#38287884)

        That's what geothermal energy is for.

        Ideally, you would combine gravity + oceans + geothermal:
        * Siphon water off the ocean
        * It falls down a long tunnel, turning a fan
        * It heats up, goes up another shaft turning fan #2
        * Redirect the vapor back into shaft 1

        With wave & geothermal, we [would] all the energy we need.

        • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @06:48AM (#38289300)
          I like the idea of geothermal but in most locations that involves very deep expensive holes and (ssh, don't tell anybody) lots of fracking. Getting a large temperature difference currently means fairly awkward locations.
          It's like hydro - with big mountains and lots of snow feeding big lakes it makes a lot of sense, and with geothermal it's only easy if there is a volcano not far away bringing all that heat to where you can get to it. High voltage DC means you can get that power to where it is needed but anything other than a small installation just under an existing power line is going to cost. It's the same thing that effectively killed all expansion of civilian nuclear decades ago - you need something very big and capital intensive to get any sort of decent generating capacity and nobody is putting up the money when they can speculate with it instead.
        • by Tomato42 (2416694)

          Wave energy isn't even 1TW, geothermal is about 44TW while we already use 15TW, at 20% efficiency of power generation it's not enough for our current needs let alone future ones...

          Renewables are a pipe dream and will remain so for foreseeable future.

  • Blades? (Score:5, Funny)

    by cyachallenge (2521604) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @11:37PM (#38287768)
    In other news a new alternative energy project provides free fish blending service for Austrailian sharks.
    • Re:Blades? (Score:4, Informative)

      by skids (119237) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @11:43PM (#38287802) Homepage

      Not blades. RTFA. Or even, just LTFP (look at the fine picture.)

      Have to say my favorite among the wave/tidal is the Pelamis though. Only needs a small mooring and easily towed around from park to park to deal with seasonal demands.

    • Fish on tap (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @01:23AM (#38288204)
      I did a bit of work at a pump storage mini-hydro plant once (only two little 250MW generators) which is used to supply power at peak times so operates at about the same time each day. Lined up at the netting designed to keep idiots from driving their skiboats up to the outlets were a lot of very large turtles and a cormorant on nearly every float - just waiting. Each day a lot of very confused fish get dumped at that spot.
      The turbines in that case wouldn't mince the fish - the blades are fairly blunt, run at relatively low revolutions and are so far apart that I entered the tunnel behind a turbine by climbing through a gap between two blades. Of course it was all shut down for the week with the pipework exiting the turbine removed.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Funny that people assume this isn't harmful because studies have shown that low frequency sounds from turbines, generators, and the like are damaging to local ecology.

    Still, nothing is going to be 100% safe. I just can't stand "greenie" morons who think there won't be problems. They may be different problems but they're still problems.

    • by skids (119237) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @11:46PM (#38287820) Homepage

      You know, I think it would be fair to say that until motorboats are banned these shouldn't be either.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Funny that people assume this isn't harmful because studies have shown that low frequency sounds from turbines, generators, and the like are damaging to local ecology.

      I can hear things and look out the window now and see things that are allowing me to type this. Sacrifices. What makes you think the aquatic beneficiaries won't think it's also worth it...?

    • I heard that in Valdes Peninsula, Argentina, there was once a project to build not one but two plants, one on each side of the isthmus. Would've been a huge source of power... but, as you said, it would have driven out the fauna, especially the whales (the noise would have been unbearable for them). So, in the end, the government decided it wasn't such a good idea after all..
  • by NEDHead (1651195) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @11:55PM (#38287874)

    Will it fit in my car?

    • by Rennt (582550)
      If you have an ocean in your car then I don't imagine fitting a few of these bad boys will be a problem. Otherwise the closest you'll get is just using the power from them in your plug-in electric.
  • by ynotds (318243) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @11:58PM (#38287882) Homepage Journal

    The swells and waves have got noticeably stronger over my 50 years holidaying on the Otway coast, so I would very much welcome anything that could take any energy out of them and make it more useful elsewhere.

    Then I might get back to diving more than once or twice per summer, down from better than every second day in years gone by.

    • Wish I had a dollar for every piece of anecdotal evidence!
      • by 12WTF$ (979066)

        Sorry, you are well over-estimating the value of anecdotal evidence.
        The going rate is fifty anecdotal evidences to the dollar.

        My 2c worth ;-)

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        Wish I had a dollar for every piece of anecdotal evidence!

        Do a scientific study and you will.

  • Well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @12:02AM (#38287908)

    Why didn't we do this before? I see nothing in this article describing anything in the technology that wasn't technically possible 20 or 40 years ago. There's not even sophisticated CFD behind the design : it appears to just be a float on the end of a rod.

    That isn't good for it's future prospects, then : if the technology has not advanced, then likely this machine will face the difficulties that they had last time they tried this.

    I'm imagining all kinds of horrible sea life buildup and corrosion and damage in storms causing it to be uneconomical. Each unit has a whole generator, transformer, cables, everything that it needs to support.

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @12:10AM (#38287930) Journal
      They could just be suckers(or playing the investors for suckers); but it could also be that, while most of the rough geometry-level stuff has been obvious for some time, advances in materials will make the thing work better in practice...

      Moving parts + marine environment = endless well of maintenance and sorrow. It wouldn't too much surprise me if a dash of some of the cooler fluorocarbon polymers and elastomers could add years to the service life of something that would otherwise be spending more time in the shop than in the chop...
      • Moving parts + marine environment = endless well of maintenance and sorrow. My thoughts exactly. It seems these guys haven't spent enough time at sea maintaining mechanical equipment. Anything left in an ocean environment clean enough for it to continue working will be covered with sea critters within months. I don't think there are any materials that have yet proved impervious to natures desire to host life.
        • Tributyltin and some of its organometallic friends have taken a fairly good stab at the problem, probably too good, and even they need to be re-applied from time to time...
      • Re:Well (Score:4, Insightful)

        by thegarbz (1787294) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @05:59AM (#38289140)

        advances in materials will make the thing work better in practice...

        You're making an assumption that the people know what they are doing rather than just putting a piece of kit together out of any metal they can find.

        We have a desalination plant in Australia which rusted out before it even finished construction [abc.net.au]. I kid you not, someone built something that goes into the ocean with the wrong metallurgy.

      • Yeah, people who wonder why we don't use wave power probably don't own boats. I love time on the water and have a nice little boat but when compared to any land based machine boats are pretty much maintenance nightmares.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The technology has probably advanced in subtle ways that are not sudden jumps. Prices of components/materials may have gone down without any significant change in the components/materials themselves. Small improvements in materials, generators, transmission, and modeling that allows for optimal design, could all render a previously uneconomical project economical. Or a series of small improvements in the design, etc.

    • There was no need or no inspiration or no funding? Any of these could easily keep an idea just an idea even if the tech and know how are available.

      That said you make good points regarding maintenance. However, there have been significant advances in materials to prevent sea life agglomeration. Additionally there are similar systems in use as reference so these are either non-issues or are accounted for in the ROI.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I concur. Having worked on a project that involved installing equipment out in the ocean, I can tell you that it's nowhere near as simple as building a device & dropping it in the water. The engineers have to take into account all the factors you've mentioned, plus there's the cost of maintenance: driving the ships out there, pulling up devices for repair, etc. The ocean is a very harsh environment.

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Interesting)

      by WaffleMonster (969671) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @01:53AM (#38288324)

      I don't know, if deep enough underwater storms won't really effect it.

      Since its producing energy anyway you could easily run some current to provide active corrosion resistance.

      Anti fouling coatings are avaliable although this will certainly remain a maintenance item.

      Seems like a simple enough design that it might work... I think at the end of the day feasibility will be driven more by economies of scale and steady build up of dead labor engineering costs out of the system.

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hadlock (143607) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @02:00AM (#38288344) Homepage Journal

      Agreed, the mechanical problem is something that could have resolved in the 1880s. It's the fact that you're immersing these in a solution that is 3.5% salt, and then moving them through a 45 degree arc every 10-15 seconds. Corrosion is going to be a huge problem, and those hydraulic cylinders are going to wear out pretty quickly. Material science can probably fix that, but to make cheap, green power you need to build things not made from unobtanium.
       
      Perhaps if the generator were integrated better in to the system, this would look more likely, but the modular design has be skeptical.

    • We do this all of the time I remember in the North Sea of Scotland years ago a trial for wave power generation using articulated worm-like floats to generate the power years ago, there is a company in Texas using a bobber type setup to generate the power to be used for water desalination, and now this; they all used hydraulic rams and hydraulic motors turning generators. These companies come and go all the time, volatility in power prices kill some, drying up of investors kill others, many run into problems

  • Someone could help me with my gravity mill and have free power for the mechanical limits of the machine itself.
    • by axlr8or (889713)
      I forgot to mention, it doesn't violate the 1st
      • Oh really...

        To not violate thermodynamics you need a gradient that is changing. Earth produces a gradient that is almost static.

        Second, even if you found a source of free energy (free as in energy available to do work, not free as in dollars) from gravity, there's the little problem that as a force it is billions of times weaker than E&M, which technically is the force that a mechanical generator uses.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          "gravity, there's the little problem that as a force it is billions of times weaker than E&M"

          Tell that to a black hole.

  • We already had this idea for air using piezo-electric cylinders. Can't we just sink these into tidal areas and generate power the same way, without all the loss of conversion?

  • This is great! I absolutely love alternative renewable energy sources to offset our dependence on fossil fuels! Keep up the good work Ausies, I can't wait to see what you crazy bastards come up with next!
  • by ZombieEngineer (738752) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @12:50AM (#38288082)
    Another system just off the coast of Fremantle, Australia (west coast of Australia) http://www.carnegiewave.com/index.php?url=/ceto/ceto-overview [carnegiewave.com] Does not produce electricity directly but very high pressure sea water which can then be used directly in a desalination plant and the waste run through a hydraulic turbine to generate mechanical / electrical energy. Given that wave energy is nearly constant around the clock, generating fresh water rather than electricity does have its advantages, doubly so in a very dry part of the world. ZombieEngineer
    • by kanto (1851816)
      This is a project I've heard about a while ago, the WaveRoller [aw-energy.com], intended (as I'd imagine most of these are?) to be placed on shore lines to take advantage of the "surge phenomenon" (basically how the waves change into more of a circular motion as the depth decreases thus creating spots with continuous back and forth motion, explained in the link). On their site there is a mention in a blog that they should be just about finished assembling their first 3x100 kW power plant [aw-energy.com] to be deployed at Peniche, Portugal
  • Variations of harvesting ocean energy go back to at least the 1800's. All of them start with free energy, we'll use the tides or waves or currents. I'm sure with some googling you could find variations going back even before then.

    All of them end with the lesson that sailors learned thousands of years ago. The sea is a harsh mistress. To be put more bluntly, every single one of these ends with a variation of 'maintenance costs exceeded projections and we're going to hold off on future deployment until the te

    • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @01:29AM (#38288238)

      To be put more bluntly, every single one of these ends with a variation of 'maintenance costs exceeded projections and we're going to hold off on future deployment until the technology improves'.

      To put it more bluntly, you are not aware to the tidal power station that's been running at Le Havre since the 1950s (for example), so I think your blanket generalistion says more about yourself than any of the technologies in question.

      • by onyxruby (118189)

        Be be even more blunt, your example is wrong [ft.com]. They have not been producing tidal power there since the 1950's. My point stands, it is very doable to make a tidal power station, it's not very doable to keep a tidal power station.

        • Nice little trick there to pretend to appeal to authority. The link just goes to a server load message on the Financial Times - was that deliberate? Even if it wasn't what would they would know anything about engineering anyway?
          Why don't you just write in something that contradicts what I was reading in the 1980s about rewinding the generators at Le Havre since you are pretending to correct me instead of misleading the other readers? It's not a very big power station but it has been there for a long time
    • by RazorSharp (1418697) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @01:48AM (#38288314)

      Isn't the whole point of science to make the impossible possible?

      The Wright Brothers with your attitude: 'It's never been done before, even if in theory it could work. It's dangerous and costly, so we better stick with bicycles.'

      I find it hard to believe that harvesting oceanic energy efficiently is impossible just because there are many challenges associated with it and it has yet to be done successfully. It'll never happen if no one tries.

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        I don't doubt it's possible. You could build one of these in your back yard with some 50 gallon drums, 100 lbs of steel and hydraulic parts off the shelf. The problem is scale and corrosion. The only two things that move underwater and doesn't need yearly replacement are propellers and fish. Even when they drill for oil, they keep the moving bits above water, even 50 years later. Immersing moving bits of metal in the water, particularly sea water is something humanity hasn't been able to solve without throw

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          particularly sea water is something humanity hasn't been able to solve without throwing lots of money at the materials bill for 100 years.

          Well not every problem is solved by a bit of stainless you found lying in your backyard. There's very few process plants in the world that don't have some kind of exotic metallurgy. The knowledge is there. If oil refineries can pump hydroflouric acid around, cope with acidic oils at high temperatures, and in some cases of refineries I've been to; use sea water as cooling water throughout the entire refinery I think it'll be trivial to cope with these things subjected to salt water at a comparatively non-cor

  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @02:10AM (#38288396)

    There's a very, very simple reason why this tech isn't going anywhere. It has nothing to do with whether or not the maintainence problems are solvable at some cost.

    All wave energy is is water pushed by wind. Thus, you are capturing energy that was originally offshore winds. For any given number of dollars, you could try to tap this energy source by :

          Placing your device in the air, where all the internal workings are available for inspection and you can choose a location with relatively rare adverse weather events (like the interior of a country away from the coast)

        Placing your device under water, with all the maintenance costs that involves and the need for scuba gear and high $$$ divers to even work on it.

    Unless we somehow run out of good spots to put windmills on land, it will always make more sense to spend the next marginal dollar on another windmill (or solar panel, when the price per panel finally gets cheap enough)

    It's possible in theory that some day wave generators might be cheap enough to be worth using instead of burning natural gas or coal. But at that point, wind and/or solar will by definition be even cheaper THAN THAT because the same materials science that made the wave generators work has made the solar/wind even cheaper!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Huh, and here I thought lunar gravity and climate played a part in water movement...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe your right,
      however some points that counter your argument:
      The potential energy in moving water and moving air is very different, due to higher density in water.

      Waves and tides are different, but if this tech generates power by water moving around, low winds but high tides should still make it move around a lot in those less windy periods. Plus research in this thing will provide tools and knowledge usable in tidal energy production.

      And then there is this next little bomb:
      Solar requires good weather d

    • by Zironic (1112127) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @05:19AM (#38289028)

      Your conclusion does not follow from your premises. I can show you how absurd your argument is by re-framing it.

      All hydro energy is simply water that has rained down. Thus you are capturing energy that was originally rain. For any given number of dollars, you could try to tap this energy source by.

          Placing your device in the air, where all the internal workings are available for inspection and you can choose a location with relatively rare adverse weather events (like the interior of a country away from the coast)

      Placing your device under water, with all the maintenance costs that involves and the need for scuba gear and high $$$ divers to even work on it.

    • Putting it underwater might make sense where putting it above water has been blocked by NIMBYs...

      I don't know if it's accurate, but at a guess it seems that underwater equipment might be able to better survive storms and / or large waves.

      Another guess might be that for a given surface area hitting a blade a water wave would have more force and thus be able to generate more energy than wind. That being said water is thicker than air so perhaps water wave energy is not as easy to capture as wind energy.

    • You are missing some points:
      First of all, waves are more consistent than wind. Wind can dimish or be to strong, while the waves continue quite a while after the wind is gone.
      Second, the wave plants consist out of relatively slow moving parts. That means wear and tear should be much lower (if the salt water problem is solved).
      Also the main strength of small wave power plants are: you can simply put "one" in front of every small coast town.
      Regarding your $$$, I assume per kW and per kW/h wave power will be mu

    • Placing your device under water, with all the maintenance costs that involves and the need for scuba gear and high $$$ divers to even work on it.

      Well lets see;

      O-DriveTM
      The O-DriveTM is a self-contained 250kW power conversion module for use in wave and tidal energy systems. It is designed to be detachable and retrievable, enabling convenient and low-cost maintenance.

      The O-DriveTM was developed by BioPower Systems. It is based on the conversion of mechanical energy from an oscillating source to electricity using a hydraulic system coupled to a full AC-DC-AC power conversion system. Within each 250kW module, two hydraulic cylinders deliver high pressur

  • Ocean Energy Tech To Be Tested Off Australian Coast

    Nowadays results would have had to be enhanced even further should they have decided to test in say Turkmenistan, or closer to home in Nebraska. It is no longer so that most scientists would have shunned the proposition should some idiot have offered them a financial incentive.

  • Why is this all written in conjunctiv? So many "woulds"?


    Extending up from the middle of that foundation would be a central column, topped with multiple blades â" these would actually be more like a combination of the kelp's blades and floats, as they would be cylindrical, buoyant structures that just reach to the surface. The column would join the foundation via a hinged pivot, allowing it to bend or swivel in any direction. Wave action (both at the surface and below) would catch the blades and push th

  • Seems rather complicated compared to the vast amount of other approaches to harvesting wave energy. This one, for example, is so much simpler:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYEQaU_1Ak0 [youtube.com]

    No need for divers, no need to attack it to the sea floor other than using an anchor any ship can just drag it into place. Or back in case maintenance needs to be done.

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