We are facing an energy crunch, so some brilliant minds have come up with amazing solutions. And humans are an inventive bunch, if the following technologies are anything to go by.
By Nicole Buckler
We all love to watch the waves crashing onto the shore, especially if they knock over a couple of people in their clothes who aren’t paying attention. But now there is something even better to look out for in the waves! It’s called an Oyster…and it’s not the oyster that you extract from a shell when posh people come over to dinner.
Oyster wave power technology has been designed to capture energy found in near shore waves. It then converts it into clean sustainable electricity. And unless the earth stops spinning, or the moon flies off to be more loyal to Mars, then this water power will be around forever. Sounds good to me.
So how does it work? The Oyster wave power device is a buoyant, hinged flap which is attached to the seabed at around ten metres depth, around half a kilometre from shore. This hinged flap, which is almost entirely underwater, sways backwards and forwards in the waves. Much like that airbed that got away from your kids last summer. The movement of the flap drives two hydraulic pistons which push high pressure water onshore to drive a conventional hydro-electric turbine. In essence, the Oyster wave power device is simply a large pump which provides the power source for a conventional onshore hydro-electric power plant. Once commercialised, multiple Oyster wave power devices will be deployed in farms typically of 100MW or more. This enough to power you and your facebooking and your microwave burgers and a whole lot more.
Aquamarine Power has already installed and tested its Oyster demonstration device at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, Scotland, where it generates electricity which is transmitted to the National Grid to power homes in the local area. It is estimated that a farm of 20 next-generation Oyster 2 devices will generate enough energy to power more than 12,000 homes.
And here’s the good stuff about wave power:
- Accessibility – Oyster’s electrical equipment is onshore, the Oyster device itself is nearshore.
- Reliability – Oyster uses conventional off-the-shelf hydro-electric generation equipment.
- Survivability – Oyster is a simple hinged flap, it ducks under the largest waves so it doesn’t have to shut down to survive extreme weather conditions.
- Efficiency – Oyster has a high capture factor, and a high power to weight ratio even when compared with offshore wind turbines.
- Scalability – Oyster is designed for low cost mass production. Multiple flaps feed one onshore generator.
- Adaptability – Oyster can power desalination plants, delivering fresh water through zero-emission reverse osmosis.
You may not like real oysters, the slimy things they are, but these oysters will allow you to heat your hotdogs, so everyone can enjoy oysters daily!
For more info see www.aquamarinepower.com
SOLANA GENERATING STATION
The world’s biggest solar power station has started construction in Arizona, United States, in conjunction with Spanish Company Abengoa Solar. Called Solana (which translates as ‘sunny spot’) Mr Obama has even fiddled with the country’s finances to make sure funding for the project was guaranteed to go ahead.
If all goes to plan, the Solana power plant will fire up in 2013, and will provide enough electricity to power 70,000 homes. It will also sidestep the production of over 400,000 tons of greenhouse gases that would otherwise contribute to global warming. It will cost a total of $2 billion to get started, which sounds rather pricey! But construction is expected to create about 1,500 construction jobs; and once completed, the plant will employ 85 full-time workers. While solar power stations like Solana use a lot of water for cooling, it will still use about 15% less water than if the same piece of land was used for agricultural purposes.
So how does it work? Parabolic mirrors will track the sun and focus solar energy on a heat transfer fluid. Once heated, the liquid converts water into steam, which turns the plant’s turbines to create electricity. This technology allows the plant to produce more energy for customers than a traditional solar power plant which only produces electricity when exposed to direct sunlight. So as long as the sun doesn’t blow a fuse and go out, it’s all systems go for solar power. Woohoo Mr Obama!
Abengoa Solar’s second 50-megawatt parabolic trough plant in Seville, Spain. It is made up of 300,000 square metres of mirrors that cover 115 hectares. The plant employs technology which concentrates solar radiation onto a heat-absorbing pipe inside of which flows a liquid that reaches high temperatures. This fluid transfers its energy to the water vapor that reaches a turbo-generator, where it expands to produce electricity.
SOLAR CRAZY – THE ULTIMATE SMART GRID
You think the world’s largest solar generation plant is a big idea? Try this out for size (and heat!). A crazy but brilliant American scientist called Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer with over 20 years of industry experience, has come up with the idea of having solar roadways (see top picture).
Having solar roads means that all roads and carparks would get converted into toughened solar panels. And not only that, but because roads go to every home and workplace in the country, the grid would already be in existence. Does this sound crazy to you? Well it sounds crazy to me and very brilliant, and guess what? It might get funded, and soon. In 2009, Solar Roadways received a contract from the Federal Highway Administration in the USA to build the first ever Solar Road Panel prototype. During the course of its construction, they learned many lessons and discovered new and better ways to approach this project. So it’s onwards and upwards.
The ideas don’t stop with just solar power generation. Lights could be installed underneath a clear cover, which means that instead of having to paint the roads, lights would do the job. And they would be safer at night! But also, heating elements could ensure that snow melts away quickly without having to be scraped away by some beast of a machine. So no more school or work closures due to heavy snow. Dang. However the ultimate goal is to store the power on the side of the road to re-charge car batteries and to supply homes. The Solar Roadway is an intelligent, self-heating, secure power grid. It really is a high-tech highway. And if the sun DOES blow and fuse and fail, then we can use the roads for ice-skating!
Do you use renewable energy in your home or business? If so write to us: The Editor, Old Moore’s Almanac, PO Box 8, Bray Business Park, Bray, Co Wicklow. You can also email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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