The Generator That Proves Ocean Energy Can Work

Jessica Moran
Swellnet Dispatch

For the first time in Australia's history, a wave energy converter trial has successfully generated energy from the chaotic and wild ocean waves to power homes.

For years, companies around the world have tried to harness the power of the ocean, with varying degrees of success.

"This is really the first project that has successfully generated electricity for a customer, and that goes to prove that ocean energy can work," Stephanie Thornton from Australian Ocean Energy Group said.

Sitting off the King Island coast in Bass Strait, the unit — made by Melbourne company Wave Swell Energy — has been generating power for the island's local energy grid for the past year.

"It's a huge success from our point of view," King Island mayor Julie Arnold said.

"It's providing power for the island, it's renewable, it's a method that could be used in other places so we're very happy to be pioneering it.

"We're a community that does look at our environment every day, certainly with a lot of what's going on around the world, I think more and more importance is being placed on environmentally sustainable ways to provide power."

Australia's first successful trial

"It's really exciting for us," said chief CEO of Wave Swell Energy Paul Geason.

"We've been very focused on this trial and proving the capabilities of the technology we deployed …and now 12 months later we've achieved what we set out to do.

"We've been generating electricity from the waves of the southern ocean that have been captured in the unit, that was our primary objective.

"That electricity is of a very high quality and has been accepted by Hydro Tasmania as suitable for the grid on King Island, so that's a very important achievement."

"The conversion rates that we've been able to achieve in terms of the amount of electricity we are able to extract from the wave energy that comes into the unit is very high," Mr Geason said.

"On average, we've been able to achieve conversion rates of 48 per cent, so 48 per cent of the energy that comes in, in the wave, is then exported onto the grid on King Island.

"That rate is very encouraging and in fact is higher than other renewable energy technologies."

Why did it work while others failed?

The team behind it said its success all came down to the unique design.

The $12 million unit was constructed in Launceston and extensively tested at the Australian Maritime College.

It was towed across last year to King Island and placed in the rough waves off Grassy Harbour.

Since then, the team have been tested it in a range of harsh weather conditions.

"We have now operated the unit and it has survived for the last 12 months in the very harsh conditions of Bass Strait … and we've achieved the objectives we set out to achieve," Mr Geason said.

"Now we find ourselves in a position where we've proven the technology and the next stage is now to move forward and commercialise the technology and see it become mainstream as part of the global mix of renewable energies."

The 200-kilowatt wave energy converter has no moving parts in the water and uses an oscillating water column design, which essentially mimics a natural blow hole.

Waves go in, rise and fall, and move air up into the turbine, which then converts into power.

It sits on the seabed and has an opening on one side to allow the movement of the waves in and out of the chamber.

The company said there was a trial in Scotland that was having success too, but that was mainly using tidal energy and did not have the blowhole design.

'Seeing is believing'

As defined by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, wave energy is generated by converting the energy within ocean waves into electricity.

Tidal energy, however, comes in two forms, both of which generate electricity.

Tidal range technologies harvest the potential energy created by the height difference between high and low tides, and tidal stream technologies capture the kinetic energy of currents flowing in and out of tidal areas, such as seashores.

"We have something to showcase that works and now we can build on that and build that customer demand that we're looking for," said Stephanie Thornton from the Australian Ocean Energy Group.

"What's really exciting for me is that seeing is believing, and up until now even though there's been a lot of innovation, a lot of the technology has not been very visible.

"So with this success, where it goes from here is now to see many more prototypes and demonstration projects in the water and really being able to showcase the benefits of ocean energy."

Using the ocean for energy is a concept many companies have tried to harness.

In 2010, a large wave sunk a wave energy generator off the New South Wales coast, and in 2014 in South Australia, a unit was being towed into position when one of the flotation devices ruptured and it sank.

Since then, there have been other units trailed and funding committed for research.

Can more units now be made?

The unit can be made five times larger than the pilot converter and placed off any coastline anywhere in the world.

Wave Swell said it was open to working with interested companies who would provide the funding and resources to build future units.

"In terms of the commercial scale-up … it will most likely be a bigger unit, and also have a bigger engine, so at least five times bigger," Mr Geason said.

"So for us, it means finding those parties and we will work with them, bringing our knowledge and know-how to help them."

The units can also be integrated into being part of a breakwater or sea wall in the ocean — off Pacific Island Nations, for example — to help combat rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

"There are sovereign governments in those islands that are very concerned to ensure that they are building resilient infrastructure so that's also presenting as a very considerable opportunity for us," he said.

"There's also interest out of Europe, in the United States and India, so we need to identify which projects are the next step for the technology."

"We would hope that maybe seeing it work here on a pilot basis might give them some hope," Ms Arnold said.

An ocean of possibilities ahead

Wave Swell said it would "love" to see another unit operating off the Australian coastline.

"Given we are an emerging technology, the very obvious market for us to pursue is the Australian market," Mr Geason said.

"The Australian oceans have some of the best waves in the world, and waves that are well located to grid access, and to electricity demand, many of us live on the coastline."

But Mr Geason said more support for the industry was needed.

"Solar and wind have received substantial government support … wave is now in that position, it needs policy support and funding, that's vital for the industry taking its next steps," he said.

Experts in the field have said the stigma around wave energy converters failing also needed to change for the sector to move forward.

"Every technology in the world has had failures, but that's really part of experimenting and learning from it and reinventing and growing, so that's the challenge," Ms Arnold said.

"In our industry, people remember the ones that didn't work, and think, 'Oh well that's ocean energy, so it can't possibly be successful', when in fact that's not true and this unit has proven that.

"It's exciting … I hope demand for ocean energy grows from here."

Comments

Simon cavanough's picture
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Simon cavanough Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 11:04am

I wonder how it deals with tidal variations !

Reform's picture
Reform's picture
Reform Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 11:30am

The oceans energy is there, the weight of all that water! Immense! All of the oceans around the globe and is constantly moving! Yes, harvest it! But with an environmentally sound method that benefits and not impedes the amazing underwater world with its rich sea life.
I'm surprised that tidal energy isn't being harnessed for this as well, maybe the velocity of tidal flow isn't strong enough compared to the vigorous wave energy, Fabulous news, well done folks.

greg-n.williams's picture
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greg-n.williams Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 12:43pm

This is the future happening now. We need to develop these ideas ASAP in order to survive. We are surrounded by oceans with unlimited energy to help us to generate power in a sustainable way, this appears to be part of the answer to our biggest challenge: Climate Change!

Finnbob the terror's picture
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Finnbob the terror Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 12:53pm

Not the first attempt to generate electricity from Bass Strait's energy.
A couple of blokes back in 1906 built a steel ball and attached it to the reef at sphinx rock in Sorrento below the high tide level, it was linked to a generator by steel rods and chains on the cliffs at Sphinx. Apparently, it lit a light globe for a period of time before it got damaged and washed up after a big swell.
The Ball is mounted in front of the Historical museum in Sorrento, most people assume it's an old underwater sea mine. https://www.facebook.com/groups/150875155104742/permalink/18451344507424...

Finnbob the terror's picture
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Finnbob the terror Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 1:22pm
Zdx100's picture
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Zdx100 Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 1:30pm

Great idea - they just need to add 2 underwater angled arms off the sides so we can left and right waves as well .. oh and wave powered spot lights so we can surf 24hrs.

Roystein's picture
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Roystein Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 2:21pm

Love the pursuit of a cleaner, greener planet, but its ironic that to do so requires more man-made eyesores in natural environments.

Reform's picture
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Reform Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 5:23pm

Ironic indeed, and why do we need so much energy?

AlfredWallace's picture
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AlfredWallace Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 2:46pm

Reform. We need to use less energy globally but we dont seem to be able to do that. We unfortunately need more energy, simply put we are a global nation of ‘shaggers’, we cant stop rooting and thus increasing the population which is about 7.76Billion and growing. There are way too many people on the planet and they all need energy in some form or the other whether it be for food, housing, school, workplace, manufacturing etc. Just look around your own town or nearby, I’ve never seen so many houses being built (squeezed ) into small little nook and crannies, once green wedges, very disheartening indeed. Maybe we need a Global One Child policy, because that’s what’s killing the planet.

AlfredWallace's picture
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AlfredWallace Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 2:37pm

Roystein. More man-made eyesores in natural environments? How many more chimney stacks do you need in the La Trobe and Hunter valleys to qualify for man-made eyesores ? All feedback is good for the discussion, the pessimism by a few on this topic is surprising. Next you’ll tell us that wind turbines are eye-sores. We need stop anthropomorphic emotions from getting in the way of sensibility, we’ve become a society more worried about the AESTHETICS than their useful PRACTICAL uses. As Michael Franti, upfront guy for the band ‘The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy” once said in the song ‘Television The Drug of The Nation’, Americans are more worried about how their teeth look than the words that come out of it. So true. Back to basics for Oz and we might get somewhere.

mpeachy's picture
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mpeachy Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 10:38am

The South Australian unit sank before making it to its proposed destination.

Hard to know if it would have been a success, but some of the same individuals are involved in this project.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 4:06pm

&t=2s

AlfredWallace's picture
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AlfredWallace Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 9:59am

Udo. I need your help, I’m a bit of a dinosaur on computers you seem to know a bit about uploading.
I’ve never attempted it. How do you add a photo into these comment boxes, any help would be appreciated. Thanks.AW.

udo's picture
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udo Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 4:26pm

Located at Grassy Harbour [waveless] so probably should be called Ocean Motion rather than Wave Swell ?

frog's picture
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frog Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 7:24pm

Grassy side of King Island is pretty low swell. The harbour even more so. In a real storm it would be toast.

Fixed to sea floor. So near the coast.

Imagine thousands of these lining our shoreline.

Better renewable options around to my mind.

Finnbob the terror's picture
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Finnbob the terror Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 5:32am

The angle of the coast from Grassy to stokes faces slightly more south than the surf coast, it gets plenty of swell.

rooftop's picture
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rooftop Sunday, 31 Jul 2022 at 8:33pm

Yay - a win!

Chipper's picture
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Chipper Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 9:48am

The CEo speaks about poritnal on Alaska for the US. I wonder How many structures crating power (for Alaska) would be needed in their ocean to generate power for 82 million homes? I love the idea.

How do the green side of politics like the idea of these structures being connected to the bottom of the ocean in pristine or beautiful ocean seaside environments?

stunet's picture
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stunet Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 10:28am

Sounds like it sits on the seabed, as opposed to a permanent fixture.

Coal and container ships lay 100m to 200m of anchor chain on the seabed while moored at sea, and this morning there were at least a dozen coals ships offshore here at Wollongong - which makes it an average day. Could it be worse than that?

Also, not sure about the 82M homes. If they're creating power for Alaska then that's power for less than a milion people.

YoungOne's picture
YoungOne's picture
YoungOne Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 9:56am

Good to see others out there putting effort into a better future.
Spokesperson from AOEG: "What's really exciting for me is that seeing is believing, and up until now even though there's been a lot of innovation, a lot of the technology has not been very visible."
Here's another Aussie group with over a decade's experience of wave energy development, leading the way: Carnegie Clean Energy (https://www.carnegiece.com/).

freesurfer1977's picture
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freesurfer1977 Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 10:23am

Time's have changed I guess. The guy who tried to introduce hempseed oil = diesel to the world had his life cut short,Cause hemp could grow everywhere, not so much peanuts.
I hope this does find its place in places with minimal impact to the foreshore

SI's picture
SI's picture
SI Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 10:41am

They need to be able to respond intelligently to changes in the environment (wind/swell/tides) so that the units can be situated appropriately depending on swell conditions. Otherwise we will just be waiting to hear of the next sinking boat. If it’s done cleverly and environmentally responsibly - with a willingness to bear costs when rough weather etc, slip into safe harbours and follow the rhythms of nature, then maybe it could work. I hope so- on the face of it, it beats the crap out burning more fossil fuels. But bear in mind it’s been pretty quiet oceans down that way for a couple of years. It’s all about awareness really. Eg. If this happens, then we do that! You have to have a clear cut responsive action plan for different conditions. I believe it can and will be done. This is no time in history to be sitting on our hands. Bold action is required at this point in climate history - we have to get behind right action and support it. I love reading intelligent ideas from surfers, because I know there are some very smart surfers and ocean people who really care about our waters and their precious ecosystems.

mowgli's picture
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mowgli Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 11:53am

If it's anchored to the floor then it's going to need some of the silicon valley design brains to make it visually appealing, or at least less unappealing. Or it'll need to be in places there's not a lot of residential sight lines.

In that first video he didn't do a very good job at explaining how it could be used as a coastal adaptation structure. Basically he's talking about a whole row of these, or even linked up, across the mouth of an embayment subject to coastal erosion risks from wave action (which we've seen there are plenty along the coast). I'd be interested in seeing the modelling if it's not a continuous, unbroken line of them (i.e. wave energy still getting through). If it's unbroken right across an embayment then the whole thing could be encased with a foot/bikepath along the top. Not only that but if the tidal range is there could make it a dual system where it captures the outgoing tidal energy (basically acts like a hydropower dam) for days where there's insufficient swell action going on (and it would allow turnover of the water behind the wall). On the inshore side could event install a reef system to enhance hte biodiversity of the setting and provide a nursey environment for key specieis.

I wonder why it's only unidirectional. Seems like a lost opportunity to convert the kinetic energy of the air being pushed out during the first past of the process. Have a turbine for expulsion of the air, which has a brake function as soon as the sucking begins, and then a separate turbine is basically the inversion, functions only on inhalation of air with a simply brake mechanism (like on bmx bike) as soon as the air tries to make it go the wrong direction.

One thing with this is the effect on seabirds (ironic given all the hyperventalating about wind turbines). Seabirds will definitely land on these things, so appropriate mesh to prevent them being sucked in and/or deterrences (do owls from Bunnings work in a marine environment?) will need to be put in place.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 11:56am

Could the unidirectional thing be in regards to lifespan of the parts in the turbine. If pushing out air compressed in the chamber, it could contain more salt? Though if coming in from just outside maybe there isn't much difference?

Possibly reversing the turbine spin so quickly isn't ideal?

Good to see successful developments in this space though.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 12:52pm

From there Website :
Most previous wave energy technologies have been developed for deep water applications, requiring floating units. Floating objects are inherently less efficient at absorbing the energy in waves. And, in almost all cases, these technologies have been reliant on moving parts in the water, which have often been their downfall. Having moving parts in the water results in prohibitively high maintenance costs, particularly when the technology is located in deep water. The WSE technology involves no moving parts in the water. The only moving parts – the turbine and the simple flap valves – are located well above the water line. In addition, the technology involves no oils, lubricants or contaminants.
The technology is based on the concept of a unidirectional OWC, the first such case in the world. Tests at the Australian Maritime College (AMC) in Launceston have confirmed the unidirectional OWC converts more energy from the waves than traditional bidirectional versions. The company is looking forward to demonstrating the positive results of this innovation.
More closely related to the WSE technology, though, is the class of technologies known as oscillating water columns (OWCs). All previous OWC technologies have been bidirectional, requiring air turbines that operate on reversing flow. This necessitates either an inefficient turbine, a more complex turbine with pitching blades, or a complicated system requiring the redirection of flow on each cycle. The WSE technology, however, is fundamentally different in that it utilises unidirectional flow allowing for a simpler, more robust, more efficient and cheaper air turbine.
The technology is based on the concept of a unidirectional OWC, the first such case in the world. Tests at the Australian Maritime College (AMC) in Launceston have confirmed the unidirectional OWC converts more energy from the waves than traditional bidirectional versions. The company is looking forward to demonstrating the positive results of this innovation.

mowgli's picture
mowgli's picture
mowgli Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 1:46pm

seem legit, thanks!

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 1:57pm

Yeah thanks.

timneumann's picture
timneumann's picture
timneumann Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 12:24pm

These guys are scaling up in the US. Already have working pilots in place.

https://calwave.energy/

Different approach. Way more mature to my mind. Their units operate below the surface in small groups of generators. So no eyesore or threat to shipping.

Ocean renewable energy is coming.

the_b's picture
the_b's picture
the_b Tuesday, 2 Aug 2022 at 7:42am

Those are just below the surface and not visible, that's worse for shipping and navigation

Distracted's picture
Distracted's picture
Distracted Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 1:34pm

As Roystein said, it’s a pity that the green energy projects have their own environmental issues.
Not sure what this proposed “Star of the South” offshore wind turbine project would do to the Muttonbirds or Albatross off the Gippsland coast, but I don’t think it would be good.
https://amp.abc.net.au/article/101280796

Logical's picture
Logical's picture
Logical Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 2:36pm

MASSIVE HOAX.

They are hiding all the detail to fool you. The most important facts are missing.

1. $12 million - what are the ongoing maintenance costs in rough salt water conditions ??
2. What is the ACTUAL daily average power output (they cleverly just quote a peak value).
3. What Govt subsidies will/are runnig it.
4. How may decades (if ever ) it takes to break even over Coal Prices.

And what is the point while the Govt allows huge Ford V8 Mustangs; those new giant V8 RAM trucks
and the large diesel SUVS and Utes etc all to be sold at the same time as they provide Green Subsidies elsewhere ??

Ban the wastage first - exessive sized vehicles; stop plane trips for holidays (only medical or family emergencies) and many other initiatives before green subsidies.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 3:20pm

UniWave 200 King Island Project – On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced $4 million in funding to Wave Swell Energy Limited to install a pilot-scale wave energy converter off the coast of King Island, Tasmania.

The $12.3 million project will involve the design, construction, installation and operation of the 200 kW wave energy device off the coast of King Island.

iamlegend's picture
iamlegend's picture
iamlegend Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 4:23pm

I'm sure climate changers won't mind these moored directly off their water front homes. I'll stick to cheap, reliable coal fired power.

freesurfer1977's picture
freesurfer1977's picture
freesurfer1977 Monday, 1 Aug 2022 at 5:06pm

It's all smoke and mirrors.. it's not going to better us realistically!! I can't see the government helping it's people,the past is a catastrophic blood bath. Our future is in the hands of fools.Corruption rain's supreme! Sell all our gas so we have none( so they say) (petrol)reduce production to inflate prices! Hope for the best but shits just insane. They did this big who ha thing with the covid BS but half-ass foot and mouth. Imagine Aussie beef industry wiped out.. the elite gov and msm have us all stitched up. I agree something's got to be done,but I have my doubts!!

lilas's picture
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lilas Tuesday, 2 Aug 2022 at 5:31am

To all those who would prefer to keep burning Coal and fuck over their kids future.
You are now burning your own future [and present] as unless you've been living in a cave, we are already seeing massive climate change happening right now.
A fucked-up planet will cost us a whole lot more than subsidizing new Green Tech.
I am not saying this tech is a perfect solution to our energy woes but it's at least trying to provide some solutions and may be great tech in years to come. Solar panels took a long time to develop and become cheap enough for the mainstream, as do ALL new technologies.
To keep burning coal is just insane no matter how you look at it, because it WILL fuck this planet and everything on it, and possibly within our lifetimes.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Wednesday, 3 Aug 2022 at 8:02pm

1 square mile of solar panels in Utah could power the USA apparently.

Not so simple of course but well placed solar farms would be preferable to thousands of clunky wave generators lined up along the coast.

lilas's picture
lilas's picture
lilas Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 7:44am

@Frog
Solar panels surely are making a huge impact, but not not sure where you got those figures from, because that's WAY off. Way, way off.
Take a look at this link below. Largest planned solar farm in the world and it's 46 square miles. And it will only supply 20% of Energy requirements for Singapore. Going to take a lot more land to supply the needs of the Entire USA.
https://www.ecowatch.com/worlds-largest-solar-farm-singapore-australia-2...
Green energy will get more efficient but it still takes huge areas to generate electricity with the current solar tech.
That's another reason to invest in many different forms of green tech, as none of them alone are the solution to the entire world's energy needs.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 3 Aug 2022 at 8:27pm

Lots of Large ones still being built atm in the Right areas.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Australia

Seaweed's picture
Seaweed's picture
Seaweed Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 10:28am

Can one be built that’s as portable as a boat, then when anchored facing into a ground swell and tethered to the grid and collecting energy from the rise nab fall af water in a large vertical tube. This tube would need to be firmly fixed to the ocean floor to enable it to harness the energy from the water movement within. Rather that fix in it it could be weighed down to stay in place, this could be done using a large bladder pumped full of water. To do it’s job well this bladder/ counterweight would need to be very heavy and well engineered and could also be shaped in a manner to make an A frame with the energy tube in the middle where the basic accomodation would be for the lucky operator.

mpeachy's picture
mpeachy's picture
mpeachy Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 1:22pm

They're extremely heavy, and therefore not really portable.

Not sure exactly how they connect to the power grid, but I believe there is a fixed connection so again not really possible to make them portable.

rothmanisatool's picture
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rothmanisatool Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 7:13pm

just for a price reference. this 200kW unit cost $12 million. 200kW of PV costs $200,000. so it has a long, long way to go before its competitive with small commercial solar let alone utility which can be as low as $25/MWh LCOE. as a surfer i want this to work. as an energywonk i know its very unlikely. the ocean is harsh. we all know that. happy to be proven wrong.

lilas's picture
lilas's picture
lilas Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 4:58am

Seems a brilliant idea to me but I don't think the Boat version is much of a viable option for most areas.
Having it built into a Rock-groin/seawall would be a much less expensive and far more likely to withstand the ocean's rage. We already have Rock-groins along most of our built-up coastlines so you wouldn't need to add new infrastructure, just modify what is already there. You could also integrate a sand pumping system into it so as to cheaply move sand that gets stuck due to the groin's shape preventing long-shore sand drift. [Like a mini Tweed-River-Sand-Bypass system for every groin.]

It's also good for people to realize that Solar and wind are just not viable in large parts of the world, so we really need some ocean tech to help fill the gaps in providing clean energy.

philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizing... Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 7:59am

What about taking advantage of the flat vertical sides of waveswell uniwave unit and configure into a Greg Webber 'V' wall and therefore create surfing waves as well.
Or just have one leg of the 'V' branching off the side of a breakwall.
As far as anchoring any structure in rough seas, suction piles are the go, this is how they anchored the Troll A gas rig platform in the North Sea.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 8:23am

Webber V-Walls do not exist and never will
Isn't this Machine only designed for low swell areas?

Camm Ra's picture
Camm Ra's picture
Camm Ra Monday, 8 Aug 2022 at 9:39am

Does anyone remember that guy Nikola Tesla who was creating wireless energy generators in the 1800s that could draw free energy from the atmosphere?
Why are people so impressed by giant year 7 science projects? We've literally had far more advanced technology for 100 years....