January 23, 2012
Energy Producing ‘Aquatic Bicycle Pump’ Trial Forthcoming
A trial version of a machine that can generate electricity from seawater could be in place in one UK city before the end of the year, BBC News reported on Monday.
The device in question is the Searaser machine, which Damian Carrington of The Guardian referred to as a sort of "aquatic 'bicycle pump'." It was invented by a Devon man named Alvin Smith and has been purchased by Ecotricity, a green energy company headquartered in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England.Searaser does not generate the electricity directly in the water; rather, it harnesses the ocean's constant wave energy to push water through two buoys, one of which is above water and one of which is tethered and suspended underwater.
When the buoys move, pressurized seawater is pushed upwards through pipes to a turbine located on shore, which ultimately results in the production of electricity.
"The idea of Searaser came to Smith when he was playing with a ball in his swimming pool and felt the energy released when the ball bobbed to the surface," Carrington said. "He said the device has the advantages of being extremely simple - like a bicycle pump - contains no lubricating or hydraulic oil, and is not a rigid structure and so can go with the flow in heavy seas."
According to BBC News, Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said that the device has "enormous" potential, and that the company is hoping to have hundreds of them in place within a five-year span. A full-sized Searaser would be approximately one meter wide, 12 meters deep, and cost about $390,000 dollars.
Ecotricity's website says that they hope to have Searaser ready for market within the next two years. Company representatives told the BBC that they believed that the device will be able to overcome two of the largest obstacles that renewable energy faces -- those being cost and inconsistent output.
"We believe Searaser has the potential to produce electricity at a lower cost than any other type of energy, not just other forms of renewable energy but all 'conventional' forms of energy too," Vince said.
Green energy news website GreenWise, citing figures obtained from Ecotricity, says that the per-kilowatt hour cost of Searaser is expected to be no more than one-fourth that of natural gas turbines, and roughly one-fifth that of onshore wind. They also say that wave and tide created electricity could provide 15% to 20% of the UK's power by 2050.
"Our vision is for Britain´s electricity needs to be met entirely from the big three renewable energy sources — the wind, the sun and the sea," Vince told GreenWise. "Until now, the sea has been the least viable of those three energy sources and we believe that Searaser will change all of that."
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