As pressure to find sustainable, ‘clean’ methods of energy production mounts, engineers are seeking to harness the power of waves. Already in the planning stages are wave energy projects in Texas, China, Australia and India.
In Europe, Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power is among those tapping into wave energy. Three of its 750 kw wave power machines were part of the world’s commercial ‘wave farm’, which opened off the coast of Portugal in 2008. That project is now closed, but Pelamis’ P2 has been named as one of the machines that would be used at three offshore sites in the UK.
The machines will be 5-10 km (3-6 miles) offshore, where the water is 50-150 m (164-492 ft) deep. Every P2 is 180 m (590 ft) in length and is made up of a nose section followed by four tube sections, each of which is 38 m (125 ft) long and 4 m (13 ft) in diameter. The tube sections are linked by hinged joints, each with a power conversion system. The P2s are ‘slack moored’ so that they can swing freely, naturally aligning themselves at right angles to oncoming wave fronts.
The UK has about 1,000 km (621 miles) of Atlantic coastline. The average potential energy of Atlantic waves is 40kw per day for every metre of coastline — enough for around 20 domestic kettles. So, scaling up, 65 P2 machines could generate almost 50 MW of power — enough to power up to 33,000 homes a year.