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Wave power

May 07, 2011 — BarryK
Last week I watched "New Inventors" on TV, with three alternative energy initiatives. One of them was a new idea to improve the efficiency of thin-film photovoltaic cells, hence lower cost. Another was a wave-power project at Port Kembla (Australia).

The Port Kembla project suffered a mishap recently:

But the company is going ahead with a bigger project that they say will withstand severe storms. See their site:

However, New Inventors did not mention another wave-power project that is much more storm-resistant, as it operates totally underwater, with dampening when wave swells get beyond a certain point. The CETO technology is described here:

What is a shame though, is how little support they have received from our Federal Govt -- they recently applied for $100 million funding but it was rejected. This is a story that I have heard before, politicians giving lip service to renewable energy. Fortunately, our WA State Govt has provided $12.5 million for a pilot commercial project.

The amount of energy in waves is incredible, and I reckon our governments should be going all-out to support such initiatives.

I was going to add some comments about our Federal Labour Party Govt (kind of like your Democrats in the US), but have restrained myself.


Username: ozsouth
I've often watched the strong tidal flow gushing under the Phillip Island bridge & wondered if that could be harnessed.
Username: technosaurus
"There are many ideas I've kicked around. 1. Sub-surface watermills - already used in a pilot project in the Mississippi river ... use them in the gulf stream. 2. Banks of squirrel cage type windmills ( similar to the type used in blower fans ) ... use them in lines all along the interstates and major highways. 3. Vertical algae farms on the oceans to turn oils from salt water algae into biodiesel. 4. As a nuclear engineer, I also have to suggest the _obvious_ alternative ... global thermonuclear war to thin out the human population and therefore reduce demand - wait, j/k. 5. The John Galt machine.

Alternative energy
Username: Sage
"Salter started wave power experiments ie hardware, not just theories, in the 70's. Now we have a number of tidal and wave machines operating. The French were first with their tidal generator at La Rance - it barely breaks even. The Canadian machine at Fundy is a one-way device, is uneconomic and has been endlessly troublesome. Generally speaking, unless new technologies of this kind can be made of mild steel, economic viability is strained; in short, seaborne equipment struggles to be cost effective. Politicians have also been unhelpful - most depend on BIG oil in one way or another for their power base. Ts, is closest to the truth however. Few are brave enough to challenge Il Papa, the Ayatollahs & co, whose power base depends on propagation of lies and deceipt. Once the world learns to live without superstition we can begin to survive on a more rational basis, including population control. It'll be a close run thing as to whether we follow the dinosaurs into oblivion first.

A mix of sources
Username: Tony
"Hi Barry yes wave power is excellent and what a lot of people don't seem to consider is that wave machines will reduce the risk of flooding due to reduction of wave height. Same with wind turbines they can reduce damaging wind speeds. Why hasn't someone (Or government) mass produced a small stove that includes a Steam or Stirling engine to generate electricity? Lots of small scale local power sources reduce the need for large scale power distribution networks with their inherent weaknesses. Maybe we need to change the school curriculum? I had to learn French and complicated math I have never used. Perhaps we need to start teaching alternative energy and conservation practices?

NewScientist article
Username: muggins2
"There was an article, in last New Scientist i read, where boffin basically showed that wave/wind powered technology couldn't replace mankind's fossil fuel economy, without environmental impact, due to waste heat generated. "He concludes that it is a mistake to assume that energy sources like wind and waves are truly renewable. Build enough wind farms to replace fossil fuels, he says, and we could seriously deplete the energy available in the atmosphere, with consequences as dire as severe climate change."

New scientist article appears quite flawed
Username: Tony
"Hi Muggins2, there are a lot of things that I find rather poorly thought out in that article (as do other see some of the comments) such as "Photosynthesis also generates free energy, but without producing waste heat." which is clearly wrong. There is a good point that there is a limit to the amount of power generated over a long period) Forests are the natural cover for most of the worlds land masses see Places like the cook islands are about 96% covered, the UK is 12%. Imagine how much energy was taken from the atmosphere by the trees that used to cover this country before we used them to build things. Is it surprising that storms are becoming more damaging. We can reverse this trend by extracting energy with windfarms, save lives and prevent damage to property etc.

"We can reverse this trend by extracting energy with windfarms"
Username: Sage
"Sadly, you are mistaken. Read the literature, study, the business plans and balance sheets. Wind turbines are extremely expensive to manufacture, install and maintain. MTBFs are not yet known. How much energy and resources are needed to manufacture them? [Well-to-wheel calculations don't look too good at present.] Add to that, they cannot supply baseload by definition. The UK got stuck in several cols during Mar/Apr - wonderful for beach bums but a disaster for wind machine investors and the national grid. Worse, with all the bush fires, several farms had to be feathered. Some early adopters are looking at bankruptcy. Notwithstanding, the Western Approaches in the UK are more reliable for wind harvesting than anywhere else in the world. As explained above, the cost of building, maintaining and transmission from offshore units is prohibitive. Then you've got all the nutcases masquerading as wild-life fans & co. emerging from the woodwork to contend with. Given that nuclear is a disaster waiting to happen, the best option will always be a 'bin Laden' job on Vatican City as a prelude to enforced population control and tallow candles. Politicians have got to start telling the truth - we cannot have unlimited energy, food, cars, offspring, w.h.y and that capitalism is an insult to the intellect.

Other energy sources
Username: Greg
"All sources of energy have good sides and bad... look at all the whop la - wild predictions for Ethanol... renewable...etc... well that was fine, till the cost of corn has sky rocketed because the plantings were diverted from food.... Here in Minnesota a company started two years ago with the idea of algae making fuels... was supposed to make hundreds - thousands of gallons of fuel in a year.... I am still waiting to see any of it. Works great in the lab. As stated wind works... but has manufacturing problem, maintenance problems, and above all.. transmission line issues from the power source to the grid and homes. Minnesota has some of the largest wind farms. You mentioned photo electric.. seems the best idea to me. But ten - twenty years ago their was a promise of a plastic voltaic cell... still waiting...Solar power heats house water great... but for mass power... not so great. You can build a solar powered kitchen great.. but we have never seen one commercially. Lots and lots of good ideas, but most are not very commercially viable. UNLESS we are forced into it... right now...well we pay the price for carbon fuels. Flip side, Geothermal wells south of Mexicali Mexico produce all the power for the two million people of Mexicali.

Username: Dougal
""Solar power heats house water great... but for mass power... not so great." While it's not ideal, it does work even now: I saw somewhere that in California they were already building large "farms" of solar panel in the desert. Around here, I open the farmers paper and see ads for five different companies looking for people with large roofs (of barns etc.) and will come and cover them with solar panels at their expense and share with you the profit. The main reason alternative energy hasn't moved faster is that the damn hippies don't realize you need to bribe politicians to get things going (like the nuclear energy people do)...

alternative energy
Username: disciple
"> Hi Barry yes wave power is excellent and what a lot of people don't seem to consider is that wave machines will reduce the risk of flooding due to reduction of wave height. Same with wind turbines they can reduce damaging wind speeds. Except when the windspeeds get up they shut the turbines down to prevent damage. Presumably they'd do the same with wave generators. ------------------ There's a big scheme in the Kaipara harbour here to use the tidal currents. It's getting a lot of opposition (perhaps more than the oil exploration is) from people concerned about the possible effects on the fish which breed in the Kaipara.

future energy
Username: technosaurus
"The current windmill designs _are_ expensive - which is why I suggested a whole different type of design, using a vertical squirrel-cage design would decrease generator efficiency a small amount, but that would be well more than offset by space savings and drastically lower construction cost due to lower thrust loads and design capacity ( you can line them up under a protective pre-engineered structure ... to reduce maintenance cost ) Solar is just not quite there yet, better to invest in it for a while first. By the time a nuke plant is constructed and operational, we could have innovated out of its necessity. Wave power is cool, but having been in the navy, I understand, the difficulties it presents.

Re Port Kembla mishap
Username: BarryK
"Port Kembla is in the State of NSW in Australia. Their pilot commercial-scale wave power project was destroyed in a storm. It had govt funding -- but then, it was I think one of Peter Garrett's projects (Aussies will understand! -- but I might be being unfair to Mr Garrett, as perhaps the project got started before he came to be Environment Minister)

Re Democrats
Username: BarryK
"I have had an email discussion with GCMartin about comparing Australia's Labour Party with the US Democrats. I should avoid political comments! Here is part of my reply to GCMartin: [i]Yes, it was a flippant comment. The Labour Party here is very different from the Democrats. There is such extremity in the US, whereas our Labour and Liberal parties are both fairly central, Labour being a bit to the left, Liberal to the right. Australia is a country where the leader of a party can state outright, "I am an agnostic", and still get elected. Actually, what I was thinking of at the time was our Labour Partys tendency to over-spend, which I recall is what the Democrats are being accused of recently -- but as you say, it is not that simple.[/i]

Reduction of damage
Username: Tony
"Hi disciple, yes wind machines can be sometimes feathered in the worst weather but even feathered their blades and structures still reduce wind speeds and will also reduce the global pool of wing energy over time and so reduce the risk of these damaging winds occurring. With wave machines flooding often occurs at highest tides and not necessarily at times of highest wave height so they still can reduce the risk of flooding and reduce coastal erosion whilst providing a good source of safe power.

Username: Sage
"Vertical windmills are great fun; they were developed by the Reading (Berks) Uni team about forty years ago. Possible to make one easily and cheaply from an old car dynamo or alternator. However, the efficiency is a tiny fraction obtainable with a horizontal shaft on which the [b]blades[/b] are vertical in the air-stream. Otherwise, the bearings, friction, maintenance, etc things all look good for the vertical shaft devices. Build one from scrap and try it - good for trickle charging the car battery or for vehicle oil heaters in cold climates.

Tags: general