A device inspired by workings of the human heart will reportedly allow scaling up wave energy generation by a factor of five.
A product of Swedish company CorPower Ocean and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the wave energy converter consists of a buoy that absorbs energy from the waves and a drivetrain converting the buoy’s motion into electricity.
“Unlike other wave power systems, ours actively controls the timing between the buoy and the incoming wave, with the help of a unique drivetrain," said CorPower Ocean’s CEO Patrik Möller.
"We can ensure that it always works in time with the waves, which greatly enhances the buoy's movement and uses it all the way between the wave crest and wave trough and back in an optimal way, no matter how long or high the waves are."
The conversion of the linear wave energy into rotating motion is enabled by a gearbox-like device designed at KHT. The gearbox ensures the converter can handle heavy loads and high velocities as it distributes the load over multiple smaller wheels.
The firm said its system, inspired by research into heart pumping by Swedish cardiologist Stig Lundbäck, generates five times more energy per ton of its mass compared with other available technologies and achieves so at one third of the cost.
The development of wave energy has been lagging behind other renewable resources because of the comparatively high investment that is needed to produce each megawatt-hour.
The varying behaviour of the sea surface creates further challenges. The differences in the height and frequency of waves make it complicated to develop conversion systems that would be able to harness the complete wave spectrum.
Möller said the CorPower Ocean gearbox is the first available device capable of managing the entire wave spectrum.
The firm, together with the KTH team, plans to launch a trial of the technology in the Atlantic Ocean in November this year.
The 8-metre-diameter buoys, each capable of producing between 250 and 300 kilowatts of power, will be installed in the Atlantic in cooperation with Spanish utility company Iberdola.
The firm has previously run tests in Portugal and France and has recently established a smaller scale test facility at KTH.