Winning Wave Device A Sea Snake With Twist

There are a seemingly endless number of variations on the wave energy converter theme, but not all of them can claim to be a James Dyson Award winner. Sam Etherington’s can.

Etherington won the UK Dyson Award for a concept that uses a series of enclosed pistons, loosely attached, that rise and fall in churning waters to capture energy. The young scientist gets £2,000 and is now in competition for the £30,000 grand prize.

etherington wave energy

The view from above…

etherington wave power

… and below. (images via Renewable Wave Power)

In a sense, Etherington’s “multi-axis wave energy converter” is a lot like the Pelamis P2, a wave energy device that consists of sections joined by hydraulic rams that use the motion of waves to drive generators.

The Pelamis sections are arrayed in a straight, snake-like string – thus the name Pelamis, for Pelamis platura, commonly known as the yellow-bellied sea snake. Etherington has thrown in a twist to that design, it appears, by arranging the sections alternately perpendicular to each other.

“The multi axis structure’s test results highlighted the increased potential and efficiency to convert external movements into hydraulic pressure, compared to conventional linear devices,” the engineer says in his project description.

Etherington, calling his effort “Renewable Wave Power,” says he’s designed his device specifically to “absorb forces from the peaks and troughs of the North Atlantic waves in any given direction.” He writes that he intends to site the device in the waters of “the Orkneys” (which, we should note, is a formulation that residents of Orkney reject), the archipelago in northern Scotland where wave power is becoming a very real thing, driven by government backing and the presence of the European Marine Energy Centre – where Etherington sees his project eventually headed:

Wave data recorded from a data buoy in the Orkneys was scaled and propagated down the wave tank to provide scaled wave heights and wave lengths in which to test the structure. A further successful round of tests to verify the initial results will see the commission of a scaled hydraulic test rig to develop and refine the hydraulic geometry for the structure. Beyond the hydraulic development, RWP will enroll on the European Marine Energy Centre’s Nursery Program for sea trials.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Granny K

    This is a great idea for those living in coastal regions (that don’t have hurricanes).