Snapping wave energy system gets funding award

Engineers given £20,000 for novel rotary wave energy generator.

The money has been awarded to the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) and will fund a research project by Newcastle University's Resource Centre for Innovation and Design (RCID).

The research will investigate how a generator can better convert the bobbing movement of a buoy on the surface of the sea into useable energy and will build on the 'Snapper' technology invented by Professor Ed Spooner, formerly of Durham University.

This concept works like a conventional linear generator in which a set of magnets mounted in a translator is moved up and down inside an armature. However, alongside the armature coils is a second set of magnets of alternating polarity. These additional magnets prevent the translator magnet assembly from moving up and down smoothly in relation to the armature. Instead magnetic forces between the armature and translator repeatedly couple the two sub-assemblies together until the external force is able to overcome it. This results in a series of faster relative movements between armature and translator more suited to classical electrical generation.

In the new device, the rolling motion of the sea to drive shaft of a generator which will use the same snapping idea, and thus has the potential to achieve a higher energy output than current devices.

The UK's target is to deliver 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Narec was established as a key research and testing facility in the UK for the most commercially viable technology. Paul McKeever is Research &Development Manager. He said, "Wave energy is an abundant and constant resource around our coastline, yet the technology is at a much earlier stage of development than other renewable sources such as wind power. The rotary wave energy generator could provide a significant breakthrough in improving how we better extract energy from the sea. With the funding from Design Network North and the help of RCID, we can continue to make wave energy an important ingredient in the renewable energy mix."

The generator is one of 30 innovative new devices and products in the North East being funded by Design Network North.

Author
Tom Shelley

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Since April 2008, Marine Current Turbines has had its rotary 1.2MW SeaGen turbine sitting on the sea bed in Strangford Lough NI. It is happily and reliably generating electricity to the NI grid, probably over a gigawatt hr of the stuff so far on very restricted operation. What is the point of pursuing this wave stuff when tidal energy is being harvested already at a commercial scale? Pelamis' P2 wave snake has endured all of 4 days of testing in light wave conditions at EMEC in Orkney recently before running for cover...with it having been privately admitted that their first attempts off Portugal just did not work!

Comment Neill Fraser, 20/10/2010
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