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A British company has moved closer to harnessing the power of sea waves to generate clean, affordable and renewable electricity.
Ecotricity spent 18 months improving the design of a device called the Searaser, moving from computer models to testing it at Plymouth University’s CoastLAB.
“We’ve put Searaser through the most extreme testing regime at Plymouth’s CoastLAB and it’s passed every challenge,” said Alvin Smith, Searaser’s inventor.
One of those challenges involved resilience, referring to what percent of a wave’s energy the device uses. The more it uses, the more cost-effective it is. So far, two of the biggest impediments to wave power have been cost and inconsistent wave strengths.
Searaser uses the motion of the sea to pump water to the shore at high pressure. As waves move the pistons in the Searaser, the pistons drive a pump to an onshore hydropower turbine, which generates the electricity.
This “seamill,” as it’s called, is designed to generate electricity on demand, eliminating the unpredictable nature of sea motion. This variability has been a problem for other renewable technologies, such as wind and solar power, which must rely on weather conditions to maintain peak output.
“We believe these seamills have the potential to produce a significant amount of the electricity that Britain needs, from a clean indigenous source and in a more controllable manner than currently possible,” said Dale Vince, the founder of Ecotricity.
“The potential is enormous,” he said. “This is a British invention that could transform the energy market not just here in Britain but around the world.”
Vince said he wants to see a day when Britain generates all its electricity from what he calls “our big three renewable energy sources – the wind, the sun and the sea.”
He acknowledged that harnessing sea power is the most difficult technology of the three because of the hostile off-shore environment, and also the least-developed. “[B]ut it has enormous potential,” he said.
Beyond providing clean, inexpensive and renewable energy, Vince said, Ecotricity’s technology also could generate green jobs in Britain and other countries that adopt it.
Vince says Ecotricity hopes to have a full-size prototype of the Searaser off Britain’s shore by late 2015, and the first commercially viable Seamills a few years later.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com