The first wave energy device for Wave Hub, the big grid-connected test site being developed off the north coast of Cornwall in South West England, has been cleared for takeoff. The U.K.’s Marine Management Organization said this week it approved OceanEnergy’s application to deploy and test its OEB35 device for up to three years.
Wave and tidal energy technologies are at a point in their development where they need to prove their viability to potential investors and power purchasers. Will they produce power as promised? Can they withstand the rigors of the sea? What will the cost actually be? Finding solid answers to these questions makes places like Wave Hub, where companies can demonstrate their designs, hugely valuable.
That said, as is the case with most nascent clean energy efforts, these things often unfold more slowly than hoped. When OceanEnergy announced in February last year that it would hook up with Wave Hub, it said it expected to have the deployment completed by the end of 2012. Oops.
The OceanEnergy device is yet another unique, innovative take on producing power from the water (see our story from last fall’s Oregon Renewable Energy Conference for an exploration of the many different concepts being persued in North America alone).
The OE Buoy floats partially submerged on the water’s surface. In the underwater portion are open chambers where water can enter. The force of the water entering the chamber pushes air upward through a turbine, turning the turbine to produce electricity. The water receding and exiting the chamber keeps the turbine going, creating a continuous process.
The company says the key to the concept is its simplicity, which allows it to survive the harsh ocean environment. “The result of 10 years of research and development is that the OE Buoy has only a single moving part and has just completed over three years of rigorous testing in Atlantic waves,” the company says on its website. “To work in such a hostile environment the platform must be designed to extract energy from the waves efficiently and also survive the worst of ocean storms.”
Ireland-based OceanEnergy tested a small version of its device in Galway Bay, but at Wave Hub it will scale up to to 1 megawatt
“Having completed successful trials of a scale device … we are keen to progress to a full size prototype at a grid connected site,” John McCarthy, chief executive and co-founder of OceanEnergy said when the company made its Wave Hub license application last October. “Wave Hub gives us the infrastructure and conditions we need to achieve this and it is an excellent accelerant for our commercialisation.”