This Renewable Energy Source Is Swell

Oceanlinx begins building third-generation ocean-swell-to-energy generator

3 min read
This Renewable Energy Source Is Swell

20 October 2009—The ocean is a potential treasure trove for renewable energy—one NASA study estimated more than 91 000 terawatt-hours annually of accessible energy worldwide. But wave-power technology development has been plagued by the unpredictability of the source and technical troubles stemming from the harsh ocean water environment. Now an Australia-based company has found a new way, to predictably and reliably generate energy from the ocean. The technology relies on the power of ocean swells, which are easy-to-predict long-wavelength oscillations.

Earlier this month, off the coast of Port Kembla, near Sydney, Oceanlinx began installation of its final demonstration-scale, grid-connected unit before it begins commercial construction. (The company is disassembling its first demo plant there, which has been in operation since 2006.) The new plant will be ready in early 2010, and its power can be connected to the Australian grid. Oceanlinx CEO Ali Baghaei says the new plant ”will validate a capacity over 2.5 megawatts” per unit—enough energy for about 2000 Australian homes.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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