Wave energy comes in many forms: at Inhabitat we’ve written about buoys, floating sea walls, and floating platforms. But Australia-based Wave Swell Energy (WSE) takes a novel approach to harvesting power from ocean waves using what CEO Tom Denniss calls an artificial blowhole.
WSE’s artificial blowhole is a concrete column resting in the sea; waves rushing in and out of a central chamber cause air to have a positive or negative pressure. The pressure changes allow the air to pass by a turbine, generating clean power. All the moving parts are above the water line for ease of maintenance.
The company says they’ve based their technology on the idea of an oscillating water column. But the difference between their technology and that of other organizations is their turbine is only hit by air flowing from one direction. This means the turbine design is simpler, more reliable, and more durable. The design also yields a higher energy conversion efficiency, according to the company.
Their blowhole can produce up to one megawatt (MW) of power; as wave conditions and weather change, the average output is around 470 kilowatts. Its capacity factor – or ratio of average to peak power – is around 47 percent, much greater than the 30 percent achieved by other wave power systems. That means WSE could offer their electricity for around seven cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is roughly competitive with coal. The WSE technology has the added side benefit of producing desalinated water.
By the middle of 2018, they plan to test their technology near King Island, a land mass home to under 2,000 people between Australia and Tasmania. Denniss also has his sights set on Hawaii. The company aims to scale up rapidly – within the next five years they hope to deploy systems able to produce 100 MW or greater. They also think they can lower the price in the future to four cents per kWh.
Via New Atlas