ocean energy

Mathematical 'crystal ball' should help double wave energy output

Mathematicians at the University of Exeter in England and Tel Aviv University in Israel say the energy generated from wave capture technology can be doubled by implementing new methods developed to predict wave power.

Significant advancements in marine renewable energy are possible because of new research from the University of Exeter. The research could pave the way to making wave energy a more viable source of power.

The research was done by a group of mathematicians and engineers from the University of Exeter and Tel Aviv University. They created a way to accurately predict the power of incoming waves. This predictive ability will make the technology much more efficient, allowing the extraction of twice as much energy as is currently possible.

The UK has great potential for wave energy. It's actually been estimated that the electric requirements of the UK could be supplied entirely from wave power. But the current technologies to extract and convert energy from the ocean are still immature when compared to solar and wind technologies. And they are as of yet not commercially competitive with other power sources without subsidy.

There has been very clear progress made by leading developers, but there are many challenges remaining. Most importantly, there are no viable technologies to prevent the devices from being damaged by the hostile marine environment, and for improving the efficiency of energy capture from the waves.

This new research addresses both of these problems "by enabling control over the devices that extract wave energy. The key to this is to enable devices to accurately predict the power of the next wave and respond by extracting the maximum energy."

"The research focused on point absorbers, commonly-used floating devices with parts that move in response to waves, generating energy which they feed back to the grid. Point absorbers are already known to be much more efficient in the amount of energy they produce if their response closely matches the force of the waves and previous research has looked at trying to increase this efficiency."

"However, this is the first study that has focused on increasing the device's efficiency by predicting and controlling internal forces of the device caused by forthcoming waves."

The researchers created a system which predicts the size of the incoming wave. The resulting data allow a specialized programme to create, in real-time, the ideal response for a wave of a specific size. Since "the device responds appropriately to the force of the next wave, it is far less likely to be damaged and would not need to be turned off in stormy conditions, as is currently the case."

Lead author Dr Guang Li of the University of Exeter explains: "Our research has the potential to make huge advances to the progress of marine renewable energy. There are significant benefits to wave energy but progressing this technology has proved challenging. This is a major step forward and could help pave the way for wave energy to play a significant role in providing our power."

"The next step is for us to see how effective this approach could be at a large scale, by testing it in farms of wave energy converters," concludes Co-author, Dr Markus Mueller of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus.

The University of Exeter is collaborating with Ocean Power Technologies, a leading wave energy device developer, to exploit and further develop the results from this research. This further activity is supported by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme in a project called WavePort.

The university's latest research has just published in the journal Renewable Energy.

For additional information:

Environment and Sustainability Institute

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