Wave Energy Hope Lures Belgium Into The Water

A Belgium-based consortium has put a new wave power converter in the water, yet another entry in this crazy, inchoate branch of renewable energy.

The device from FlanSea – Flanders Energy from the Sea – that got wet this week falls in the point-absorber category. Broadly speaking, these are floating structures that absorb the up-and-down motion of the sea and turn it into mechanical energy (in this case, via the rotational motion of a winch) that can be converted to electricity.

flansea wave energy

A 1:2 scale model of the Wave Pioneer goes in the water (image via Electrawinds)

We’ve written about a couple of other point-absorbers: One by Neptune Wave Energy of Dallas, which tested a one-fifth-scale model of its concept in New Hampshire last year, successfully, the company said; as well as an Oregon-New Zealand collaboration called the WET-NZ. A second-generation, half-scale version of the WET-NZ had a one-month test run in Oregon waters last year and has since won a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to do a yearlong test in Hawaii.

FlanSea is a three-year program intiatived by the University of Ghent and proceeding with state backing and the participation of companies such as DEME Blue Energy, Cloostermans, Electrawinds, Spiromatic and Contec, and the Ostend Port Authority.

It was at Ostend where the device, dubbed “Wave Pioneer,” was launched on Tuesday.

According to a FlanSea statement [PDF], within a few weeks “the test device will be moved and installed at approximately 1 kilometre from the coast of Ostend.” Testing will proceed through the year.

During two years of development, the FlanSea team built and tested their concept at one-tenth scale at a wave lab. Now they’re got it up to 1:2 scale.

The developers say the Wave Pioneer is intended not for areas with large waves, but for “moderate wave climate zones, such as the southern part of the North Sea.” The idea is that dozens of devices arrayed in an area could provide a meaningful clean energy contribution.

Here’s a short animation from FlanSea that gives you a little bit of an idea of how the Wave Pioneer operates:

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.