Gallery: ‘Oyster’ System is a New Way to Harness the Power of Waves


Recently Edinburgh-based company Aquamarine Power unveiled plans to install a new type of wave power system in place in the seabed off the Orkney Islands coast. Dubbed the Oyster, the system utilizes an on-shore base that is much easier to maintain than standard wave power designs, and the system is capable of operating at shallow depths, making it more consistent than systems that operate far out at sea. Each unit is capable of producing 300-600kw of electricity, so a commercial farm of ten units could provide clean energy for a town of 3,000 homes!

Turns out waves are good for more than just surfing and scenery. Companies across the globe are turning to the briny deep to develop wave power plants, systems that generate electricity from the motion of the ocean. Locations like California, Oregon, Sweden and Scotland have already been targeted as wave power hotspots, and soon the Orkney Islands will be joining the group.

Aquamarine Power‘s “Oyster” device differs a bit from existing wave power systems. The Oyster uses hydraulics to transfer high-pressure water to shore, where it’s then converted to electricity, essentially using wave power to fuel an onshore hydroelectric plant. Once activated by a wave’s motion, an underwater oscillator equipped with pistons pumps water through a pipeline to shore. Onshore generators then convert the water into electricity.

This wave-hydroelectric hybrid offers a couple of advantages: For one, the system’s most complex equipment is onshore, meaning that maintenance workers don’t need to worry about repairing underwater gearboxes or generators that could be damaged by volatile ocean waters. Also, the system is placed at a relatively shallow depth (about 12 to 16 meters deep), where seas are more consistent than further offshore, making power delivery itself relatively consistent. Developers also made sure the system runs silently and relies on only water for hydraulics (rather than oil or other toxic substances) in order to minimize disturbances to ocean life.

The Oyster is still in very early stages of development–a trial demonstration is set to begin in the fall of this year. But developers say that they hope to eventually introduce the system to the coasts of Spain, Portugal, Ireland, UK, US, South Africa, Australia and Chile. Let’s hope the tech lives up to its expected reputation: Calculations by the Carbon Trust suggest that each Oyster could save about 500 tons of carbon dioxide each year.

+ Aquamarine Power

Via ScienceDaily


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  1. gontier June 14, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    A great invention and looks to be a real winner, but one of my concerns is, what hazards would it create for shipping? Another is how it would cope with the long-term effects of land erosion being created behind it. I would like to see a system that not only generates tidal energy, but also serves to protect coastlines from erosion, by preventing the waves from crashing directly onto shorelines that are prone to erosion. Why not house the devices in banks of “sluiceway” tubes that arc upwards above sea-level to allow spent seawater to fountain out at the top and fall back on the surface of the sea – as its tidal energy is diffused, by conversion into electricity combined with the effect of gravity, in order to prevent land erosion, or at least go a considerable way to reducing it. Or am I risking appearing a little too Canute/Cnut here?

  2. graeme February 6, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Has the trial process began?, if it has i would like to find out if this project has been successful

  3. CYNDO August 25, 2009 at 5:02 am

    I would like to know more about the proposed wave and tidal power station in south africa

  4. CYNDO August 25, 2009 at 5:00 am


  5. perfectcirclecarpenter August 7, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I had mused over this idea before as a method of delivering water upland to be desalinated… It will be interesting to see how much effort it would take to also:
    *capture minerals into seacrete panels using electrified wire mesh, also yielding hydrogen and ozone
    *completely desalinate the water captured by distilling using mostly solar evaporative means, possible ozonization
    *recapture some energy potential from the vapor pressure through a turbine
    *hydrogen capture?

    Just the seacrete panels would seem worthwhile, considering the mining and processing effort it takes to create concrete…

    The polluted bay at Long Beach, CA is getting some attention as city folk are wanting to partially destroy the wave break to release the pollution (LOL WHY NOT STOP POLLUTING IT) and to get bigger waves to attract tourists (HUMMMMM)
    Sounds like an opportunity to strategically place an oyster wave plant, generating green power, and opening holes in that break.

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