Water power 2.0

Tom James @ 05-12-2008

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a new method for generating energy from water flows:

The new device, which has been inspired by the way fish swim, consists of a system of cylinders positioned horizontal to the water flow and attached to springs.

As water flows past, the cylinder creates vortices, which push and pull the cylinder up and down. The mechanical energy in the vibrations is then converted into electricity.

Cylinders arranged over a cubic metre of the sea or river bed in a flow of three knots can produce 51 watts. This is more efficient than similar-sized turbines or wave generators, and the amount of power produced can increase sharply if the flow is faster or if more cylinders are added.

More about this VIVACE (Vortex Induced Vibrations Aquatic Clean Energy) technology can be found here.

[via Jon Taplin’s blog][image from Jon Taplin’s blog]


The Energy Island

Tomas Martin @ 27-02-2008

Combining multiple methods of alternative power generationThe Oil Drum Australia has a great post this week about tidal power construction all across the world, including the attractive ‘Energy Island’ concept pictured. The article talks about tidal, ocean current and wave projects from the UK, US, New Zealand, Taiwan and Canada, amongst many others. The UK could potentially derive 25% of its power just from wave energy, not to mention its huge resources of tidal power in the Severn Estuary and on the coasts of Scotland. Also discussed is OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion), which creates power from the heat differential between warm surface water and cold deep water.

In other news, Oil has never been higher priced in history than it is today, at $102.08 a barrel. Looks like we’re going to need a lot of this alternative energy supply. One of the projects mentioned at the bottom of the Oil Drum article is for floating islands of power generation producing hydrogen to fuel passing ships. Neat.

[via The Oil Drum]


UK makes massive step towards wind power

Tomas Martin @ 10-12-2007

Britain should see over 7000 offshore wind turbines by 2020The Secretary of State for Business, John Hutton is announcing a huge sea-change in the UK’s approach towards future power plants, with a massive 25Gw of offshore wind proposed to add to an existing 8GW of planned construction. This vast increase in wind power, in addition to the wave and tidal projects being tested in the Orkney islands, could power all of the UK’s homes by 2020.

It’s interesting to see this being portrayed not only as an environment issue but as a security issue, with Hutton saying:

“I do not want in 20 years’ time to find that whether the lights go on in the morning is down to some foreign government or someone else.”

With the North Sea oil and gas fields decreasing rapidly in production, the UK is losing its resource power. By investing in new renewable technology it can continue to be an important world power. Denmark invested in wind over the last decade and now has a £2billion industry. If only more nations would have this level of foresight.

[story and picture via European Tribune]

UPDATE: As requested in the comments, here is a more up to date (and more detailed) analysis of Danish wind power and their plans up to 2030.


It’s a big year for alternative energy

Tomas Martin @ 15-10-2007

These strange snake-like machines tap the power of surface wavesWhilst close to where I live the UK government is looking at proposals for the biggest tidal barrage in the world, elsewhere in Europe similarly ambitious projects are even closer to fruition. In Portugal the first ever commercial wavefarm is due to start any day now. A couple of huge wind turbines tapping into the vast wind energy of the North Sea have been a success and a farm of 200 of the 300ft high towers is now in planning, powering as much as a whole city. As I reported a few weeks ago, algae is looking more and more like the ultimate source for biofuels. Advances in nanotube growing and temperature controlled soldering are making big leaps in solar panel efficiency.

Even without the dual spectres of climate change and dwindling resources our future is likely to be wedded to many of these nascent technologies. When the Earth provides so much energy currently left untapped, it would be a shame not to use it. Economic centres in the future will be invariably tied to the amount of natural energy the environment nearby provides. It’s exciting to think that many of these technologies are reaching the point where they may soon be economically viable on large scale.

[photo from the guardian article on wave power]


UK Government announces feasibility study on Severn tidal barrage

Tomas Martin @ 27-09-2007

how a tidal turbine worksFor 150 years there have been plans to build a barrage across the Severn Estuary, close to where I live in Bristol, England. Yesterday the government revealed a new detailed study into the possibility of such a construction in the near future. The barrier would cross the Bristol Channel from near the Welsh capital of Cardiff across to Weston Super Mare, south of Bristol. The 16km-long barrage could provide as much as 40,000 jobs and provide a rail link between England and Wales.

This is an exciting development. The distance between Bristol and the corresponding coasts on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean causes a resonant frequency in the tides, causing one of the biggest tidal shifts in the world. If this plan were to go ahead it could provide 5% of all of the UK’s electricity demands. There are environmental concerns about wildlife but the formation of a cleanwater lake beyond the barrage may also create new habitats. Another option is a series of tidal pools such as the one being proposed as a test site near my hometown of Swansea.

{image from the bbc article}