The marine energy team at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has created a wave energy system designed to better withstand the ocean’s power than the huge and heavy generators of the past. The variable-geometry, oscillating, surge wave energy converter can open slats to allow waves to flow through rather than crash on the device. This wave escape hatch protects the technology from forceful impacts, which will help it endure longer in the ocean.
“All wave energy devices need a way of surviving for several years in the ocean,” said Krish Thiagarajan Sharman. “This is one way.”
Sharman, the endowed chair in renewable energy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is working on this project with NREL mechanical engineer Nathan Tom.
With funding received two years ago from the Department of Energy’s Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), Tom and Sharman have moved the wave energy converter system from theory to practice, nudging the potential solution closer to commercialisation and wave energy closer to widespread deployment.
The team is also looking at alternatives to steel hulls, which are heavy and expensive, as well as raised foundations. Lifted off the seafloor on columns, the wave energy conversion devices will be less susceptible to disruption from swirling debris and sand. In addition, because surface waters are often more energetic, devices that can reach those areas could produce more power.