May 6, 2009

Anaconda Machine Uses The Power Of The Sea

"Anaconda" is a new wave-energy generating device and the latest idea to capture and utilize the power of the seas.

Its inventors say the key to its success is its simplistic design. Made from a blend of fabric and natural rubber, the Anaconda device is little more than a length of rubber tubing filled with water, hence its name. It is strong, yet considerably easy and cheap to manufacture.

Each Anaconda device is tied to the sea floor and situated to face the oncoming waves. Floating just under the surface of the sea, the tube rides the waves. When a swell contacts the front of the device, it causes a bulge to travel to the back of the tube, which then drives a turbine in its tail creating electricity.

The test device is 9 yards long and its developers say that a full-sized device could be up to 200 yards in length and able to produce 1MW of power, enough to power a thousand homes, and cost $3 per yard to build.

Checkmate Seaenergy Ltd, which has been testing a small-scale 8m-long prototype in a wave tank in Gosport, Hampshire, is developing the device.

Paul Auston, chairman of Checkmate, says the tests have proven that the concept is affective.

The analysis of the technology concluded that the simplicity of its design would make commercializing it a relatively quick process, which has the potential to bring energy costs down considerably.

The company is now seeking to raise $10.5 per yard from investors to build a larger version to test at sea.

"We've seen excellent results in scale-model testing, and now we are gearing up to attract the necessary investment to develop Anaconda and begin producing the first full-sized units for ocean testing within the next three years," he said. 

"The UK is known for its engineering excellence and politicians from all parties have been keen to challenge companies to come up with renewable energy projects that can be sold around the world."

"With Anaconda," he added, "we have an invention that changes conventional thinking and it can help to meet government targets for cutting CO2 by providing renewable wave energy from our coastal waters."

"It will also help cement the UK's world-leading position in this technology."

The co-inventor of the device, Professor Rod Rainey of engineering design consultants Atkins, has been contributing in this area for several decades.

He said, "The beauty of wave energy is its consistency. However, the problem holding back wave energy machines is that devices tend to deteriorate over time in the harsh marine environment."

"Anaconda is non-mechanical. It is mainly rubber, a natural material with a natural resilience, and so has very few moving parts to maintain."

The plan is to eventually have hundreds of these machines offshore where waves are large such as northern Scotland. Other potential locations would be areas on western seaboards such as off the coast of America, Australia, Ireland and Japan.

Developers claim that one group of 50 full-size (200yd) Anaconda wave-powered machines could provide electricity for 50,000 homes.

Professor Godfrey Boyle, an expert in renewable energy at the Open University, believes the device has great promise.

If the team is able to acquire the necessary funding, he says they "could be on to a winner."

He also cautioned the developers that they would need to have a design able to achieve great longevity of life for the device and extreme resilience to endure decades of abuse from the waves. It would also need to be made at low expense with low maintenance cost and high-energy conversion efficiency.

If the process goes smoothly, Checkmate believes the device could be commercially produced and floating off the seas of Britain by 2014.


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