Wave Power From Down Under (The Water)

It’s a big island, but it’s still an island. And most of Australia’s population is within a boomerang’s throw of the water – all of which makes marine-based power generation a potentially important part of the country’s future clean-energy mix. Recognizing this, the Victoria state government is conditionally pumping $5 million into BioPower, bringing the wave power startup closer to the funding needed to demo a 250-kilowatt prototype of its bioWave device.

“We are now ready for the ultimate test – installing the bioWave in high energy 30-metre deep ocean waters,” CEO Timothy Finnigan said in a statement. “We have to raise another $3.6 million to complete the project funding, and given our results to date we are confident of achieving this in the coming months. The technology has been positively assessed by more than a dozen independent reviewers.”

bioWave, wave-power device

image via bioWave

The company says the design of the device was inspired by the swaying of ocean plants in the ocean swell, and that influence is readily apparent: Mounted on the seafloor, an array of bouyant floats “interacts with the rising and falling sea surface and the subsurface back-and-forth water movement,” the company says. A hydraulic system convers the mechanical energy from this motion into fluid pressure that is used to spin a generator, the company says.

bioWave, wave power device

image via bioWave

BioPower sees three key pluses to its design: it generates its electricity onsite, conveying it to the grid via cable, providing maximum flexibility in locating the plant; in heavy seas the floats, or “blades,” automatically go to the seabed, which decreases the requirements and costs for structural stability; and with several blades on each device, a higher proportion of energy can be captured.

Here’s a cool animation showing how the blades set down in heavy swells (more animations are available on the company’s excellent website):


Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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