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Screenshot from website of 40SouthEnergy in Britain, showing their stay-under-the-waves wave-power system.
Thursday, May 23, 2013

Getting electricity from waves has proven much, much harder than it seems

The world's first commercial wave-power plant shut down two months after it opened, victim of the enormous cost and difficulty of operating moving machines in the very harsh environment of the ocean's surface. Now, as New Scientists reports (here) a British company is trying by building a system which operates underwater - where there's less energy to tap into but also less mayhem to cope with.

Wave energy researcher Ted Brekken at Oregon State University in Corvallis says it was natural for wave energy companies to initially try to harness the most powerful waves possible, but pursuing the most energetic waves at any cost doesn't necessarily make sense. "How much it costs to make, maintain and deploy the device is very significant for wave energy," says Brekken.

Tidal power systems have much of the same problem: There's lots of predictable energy but it's expensive to maintain a system in that environment. Here's a government link to tidal systems worldwide.

No local connection here, by the way; I just thought it was interesting. (UPDATE: UNH points out that there is a UNH connection.)