Inventor of Wave Energy Converter Gets a Medal

But who'll get the money?

1 min read
Inventor of Wave Energy Converter Gets a Medal


Richard Yemm, founder of Pelamis Wave Power, the Scottish company that fielded the world’s first wave energy converter off the coast of Portugal in 2008, has been awarded the Saltire Prize Medal, “for his outstanding contribution to the marine renewables sector.” The Saltire prize is part of the Scottish government’s effort to publicize its “ambition to become the leading force in clean, green, marine energy,” says Scottish Development International’s Saltire Prize website. Scotland’s First Minister presented the award at the Scottish Renewables annual conference dinner in Edinburgh.

Yemm invented the so-called “sea snake” while working on his doctoral degree at the University of Edinburgh. To this point, his company has achieved several firsts. In addition to the breakthrough of generating electric power that was routed through an undersea cable to the Portuguese coastal town of Aguçadoura,  Pelamis is still the only company to sell wave energy converters to UK utility firms.

Pelamis's generator—three long canisters linked by hinged joints that push hydraulic rams that pump high-pressure oil through turbines inside the canisters—was first tested at the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC), which is located amid the Orkney Islands off Scotland's northeastern coast.

The UK created EMEC with an eye toward making renewables 20 percent of its energy mix by 2020.

It’s important to note that while the Saltire Prize medal is certainly an honor, it is no guarantee that Yemm and his company will ultimately win the £10 million Saltire Prize that will be awarded in 2017. To walk away with the money, a team will need to generate the most electricity beyond the minimum output of 100 gigawatt-hours over a continuous two year period using only the power of the waters off Scotland’s coast.


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Smokey the AI

Smart image analysis algorithms, fed by cameras carried by drones and ground vehicles, can help power companies prevent forest fires

7 min read
Smokey the AI

The 2021 Dixie Fire in northern California is suspected of being caused by Pacific Gas & Electric's equipment. The fire is the second-largest in California history.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The 2020 fire season in the United States was the worst in at least 70 years, with some 4 million hectares burned on the west coast alone. These West Coast fires killed at least 37 people, destroyed hundreds of structures, caused nearly US $20 billion in damage, and filled the air with smoke that threatened the health of millions of people. And this was on top of a 2018 fire season that burned more than 700,000 hectares of land in California, and a 2019-to-2020 wildfire season in Australia that torched nearly 18 million hectares.

While some of these fires started from human carelessness—or arson—far too many were sparked and spread by the electrical power infrastructure and power lines. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) calculates that nearly 100,000 burned hectares of those 2018 California fires were the fault of the electric power infrastructure, including the devastating Camp Fire, which wiped out most of the town of Paradise. And in July of this year, Pacific Gas & Electric indicated that blown fuses on one of its utility poles may have sparked the Dixie Fire, which burned nearly 400,000 hectares.

Until these recent disasters, most people, even those living in vulnerable areas, didn't give much thought to the fire risk from the electrical infrastructure. Power companies trim trees and inspect lines on a regular—if not particularly frequent—basis.

However, the frequency of these inspections has changed little over the years, even though climate change is causing drier and hotter weather conditions that lead up to more intense wildfires. In addition, many key electrical components are beyond their shelf lives, including insulators, transformers, arrestors, and splices that are more than 40 years old. Many transmission towers, most built for a 40-year lifespan, are entering their final decade.

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