Doing Wave Energy With No Moving Parts

A novel method for generating power from ocean waves – one that uses no moving parts – will be tested off the coast of New Hampshire this summer after trials this winter in Lake Washington, in the Seattle area, proved successful.

“The power generator performed exactly as we expected, demonstrating a very high correlation between the actual output and the output we predicted based on the wave conditions,” Oscilla Power CEO Rahul Shendure said in a statement. “Winter storms on the lake offered ideal conditions for a first trial, giving us a great foundation for our ocean testing off the New Hampshire coast this summer.”

oscilla power

image via Oscilla Power

Oscilla’s technology is based on reverse magnetostriction. Reverse what? Well, turns out there are certain materials that undergo changes in their magnetic field when a load is placed on them. Since changes in magnetic fields can create a current, this opens up the opportunity of using waves to drive the revesve magnetostriction process.

The key to making this viable, Shendure told EarthTechling last fall at an Oregon wave energy conference, was finding ferromagnetic materials that were neither expensive nor rare. Shendure said they did that with iron and aluminum. They call their patented technology iMEC.

The chief benefit of this concept: simplicity (which translates to “cost,” in several ways). A simple buoy is tethered to the ocean floor by mooring lines that uses the iMEC-enabled power generators. All it takes is the continuous motion of the ocean to activate the generators.

OPI said it deployed a couple of wave power harvesters in the northern part of Lake Washington in January and  they operated continuously for nine weeks.

“This was the first time that OPI’s patented technology, which is ultimately intended for use in energy generation applications in coastal areas, was tested in uncontrolled conditions,” the company said.

Last September, OPI won a $1 million Phase II Small Business Innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to further its work.

The company has offices in Salt Lake City and Seattle.

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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