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Harnessing oceanic energy through seafloor carpets

by Darren
Seafloor Jnl 6 14

Using a rubber carpet on an ocean floor to capture energy. Increasing amounts of energy are being consumed across the planet.

As scientists and researchers search for ways to meet this demand, one location looks like it might provide an answer to this glaring problem: the Ocean, which possesses a massive amount of kinetic energy. However, current capture/convert systems only scratch the surface of the potential energy stored within the deep blue sea. In an effort to gather more of this energy, researchers at UC Berkeley have invented a wave-to-energy conversion system that rests on the ocean floor.

This has been created using a carpet of rubber that sits atop a series of actuators, with the new system generating power by leveraging the energy in crashing waves and churning currents. As the ocean passes over or violently crashes into this carpet, its hydraulic actuators move downward, imparting kinetic energy to the system. That energy can then be transmitted to generators nearby which will transmit or store the power they convert.

“There is a vast amount of untapped energy in the oceans and, with increasing worldwide demand for power, the need to find cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels is critical,” says Reza Alam, a University of California, Berkeley professor. “We are also seeing greater population growth along coastal cities, so the ocean-based system we are developing would produce electricity in a carbon-neutral way right where it is needed.”

In a recent presentation at the 10th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference in Denmark, the Berkeley team stated that their wave-carpet system could absorb more than 90% of the energy of incoming waves. When translated to a working prototype, Alam believes that a 10m2 carpet placed on the raging California coastline could generate as much power as a solar array the size of a soccer field.

Although still in the experimental phase, Alam and his colleagues plan to use their wave-carpet in real-world tests within the next few years. “We plan to start testing this system in the ocean within the next two years, and we hope to have it ready for commercial use within the next 10 years,” says Alam.

If this technology can be commercialised, growing coastal regions could begin to provide themselves with greater amounts of locally generated power, further fuelling their expansion and their ability to attract new businesses.

Acknowledgement and thanks are given to www.engineering.com and Kyle Maxey for the information contained in this article.

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