Electricity generator for wave energy
Wave energy technology company Aquamarine Power has teamed up with Bosch Rexroth to launch an industry-wide initiative that aims to solve the problem of converting captured wave energy into electricity by creating a 'standardised self-contained offshore electricity generator' suitable for several different wave energy concepts.
Known as WavePOD, the scheme also features a number of other partners, including wave technology developers Albatern, Carnegie Wave Energy UK and M4 WavePower. Other collaborators include the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, the University College Dublin Electrical Research Centre and the Institute for Fluid Power Drives and Controls (IFAS) at RWTH Aachen University, as well as Irish utility ESB.
According to Louis Verdegem, Ocean Energy Technology Manager at Bosch Rexroth, individual wave device manufacturers have previously worked on the issue in isolation from each other but WavePOD marks a 'step change' by combining the collective experience of leading wave industry developers to take 'a system-wide approach to Power Take Off (PTO) that can be used across all devices.'
The technology is based on an oil hydraulic system that converts reciprocating motion into rotary motion to drive a generator, which Verdegem refers to as a 'proven mature technology' that is already used in several industries.
"The WavePOD project is focused on adapting this technology for the specific requirements of the wave industry. If successful, it will see Bosch Rexroth provide the complete PTO system, taking responsibility for conversion, control and instrumentation from the mechanical input to the export cable, including the environmental control and enclosure 'pod' technology," he added.
The project team has already created a tenth-scale prototype, which produced its first power in laboratory tests carried out in late November.
"What is interesting about the wave energy sector is that technology solutions are so diverse, with each adapted to differing locations and positions in the water. As a result, it's unlikely there will be just one technology that would be used at all depths and environments. However, WavePOD will be applicable to all devices," said Verdegem.
If the consortium is successful in delivering a product that can be used by wave energy companies to accelerate progress towards more reliable and commercial technologies, Sian George, CEO at pan-European trade association Ocean Energy Europe believes the market could be 'significant.'
"We have made significant strides in recent years in demonstrating the viability of ocean energy technologies and our next step is to solve some quite specific and well recognised pan-industry technology challenges. There is growing consensus that the best way to address these challenges is through collaborative approaches and the WavePOD project is a very good example of how this can be achieved," she added.
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