A whole different kind of sea snakes…

December 4, 2008 at 12:26 Leave a comment

They look cool, and could potentionally provide “green” (or is it “blue” ? :o) ) power for thousands of households: The “Wave Snakes”.

Wave energy graphic

Portugal is one of the first countries to actually use the technology. Check out the BBC News article.

The new technology has been inspired by the way fish swim, consists of cylinders positioned horizontal to the water flow and attached to springs.

As water flows past, the cylinder creates vortices, which push and pull the cylinder up and down. The mechanical energy in the vibrations is then converted into electricity.

Cylinders arranged over a cubic metre of the sea or river bed in a flow of three knots can produce 51 watts. This is more efficient than similar-sized turbines or wave generators, and the amount of power produced can increase sharply if the flow is faster or if more cylinders are added.

A “field” of cylinders built on the sea bed over a 1km by 1.5km area, and the height of a two-storey house, with a flow of just three knots, could generate enough power for around 100,000 homes. Just a few of the cylinders, stacked in a short ladder, could power an anchored ship or a lighthouse.

Systems could be sited on river beds or suspended in the ocean. The scientists behind the technology, which has been developed in research funded by the US government, say that generating power in this way would potentially cost only around 3.5 USD per kilowatt hour, compared to about 4.5 USD for wind energy and between 10 USD and 31 USD for solar power. They say the technology would require up to 50 times less ocean acreage than wave power generation.

The system, conceived by scientists at the University of Michigan, is called Vivace, or “vortex-induced vibrations for aquatic clean energy”; in Portugal they call it “Pelamis”.

Similar ideas:

A similar idea uses rubber “snakes” and the movement of the waves alongside of them:

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Entry filed under: Nature, Science, Technology. Tags: , , , .

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