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Ocean Power Catches a Wave

Europe and New Zealand to install commercial generators; U.S. lags

3 min read

The first commercial ocean energy project is scheduled to launch this summer off the coast of Portugal. Three snakelike wave-power generators built by Edinburgh's Pelamis Wave Power will deliver 2.25 megawatts through an undersea cable to the Portuguese coastal town of Aguçadoura. Within a year, another 28 generators should come online there, boosting the capacity to 22.5 MW. That may be a trickle of power, but the project represents a new push into wave and tidal power as governments eye the oceans as a way to meet their renewable energy targets.

Engineers have come up with a variety of schemes to harness the power of waves, the flow of currents, and the motion of the tides. The Pelamis generators, part of a class of wave-energy converters called linear absorbers, each comprise three long canisters that look like giant oxygen tanks. Hinged joints link the canisters; when the waves change the segments' positions relative to one another, the joints push hydraulic rams, which pump high-pressure oil through turbines inside the canisters.

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Greg Mably


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