• Damon Swisher

Motion of the Ocean: The Oscillating Wave Generator

Marine Energy: How Possible Is It?

Well, the truth is: EXTREMELY Possible! Over the last few years (and I mean it, like over the last 20 years) the ocean energy generation industry has been bursting with ideas, though unfortunately their coverage remains relatively low. It's likely because the efficiency of the abundant projects varies considerably, so few of them are likely to be the saving grace against the call for fossil fuel reduction.

That being said, the options are there. Some of them are low-hanging fruit, like using hydrodam-type technology; while others tend to be a lot more creative. The Oscillating Wave Surge Converter (or OWSC for short) is one such project. You can read further studies and details about it here.

Check out our article on buoys that generate energy using the ocean waves here if you're interested in wave energy!

What Is It!?

Have you seen those oscillating wind turbine structures? Those are pretty cool - if you haven't, I attached a picture below.

Basically the way these work; when wind interacts with the flute structure, it causes the flute to vibrate back and forth. That vibration is converted into energy. Pretty cool, right? These are also candidates for oceanic energy harvesting as well; but the OWSC is using the ocean directly, so they will be the focus for this article.

The OWSC works in much the same way - except instead of a blade, it uses a plate, or paddle. The paddle is fairly large; in some models, it can extend above the ocean surface to capture the momentum from the total wave surge.

Essentially, the moving water particles beneath the surface of the water created during a wave surge near the shore are harvested by the OWSC, whose paddle is allowed to rotate around an access on an anchored platform as shown in the image above. This rotation compresses a hydraulic piston, which is connected in series to a generator system which is then connected to shore power. Some combinations have the piston connected to a hydraulic line full of pressurized fluid, which feeds to a turbine on shore.

The efficiency of these devices is debated, as a single paddle/converter structure is not predicted to exceed even 1 MW of energy generation. That being said, the strategy suggested for these devices would be able to breach that number if the paddles are lined up in parallel, capturing as much of the wave surge near-shore as possible. In other words - as more development, study, and planning is conducted, these could become a coastal community power generation replacement! They are extremely green, pose little risk to the environment in their area, and aren't a threat to aquatic life.

It's possible the OWSC could be another candidate for near-shore power generation for near-shore marine sensors and oceanographic equipment, like the solution deployed by Ocean Power Technologies.

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