Wave Buoy for Ocean Power

Green energy, though still a small share of total energy production in most countries, is growing rapidly. Hydro is the most developed renewable energy source, with wind and solar installations quickly increasing but from low levels. Wave power, however, is a fairly predictable, endless source of high-density power just beginning to be exploited. Waves are generally plentiful in oceans and seas, and wave power parks can be placed out of sight, and out of the way for fishing and shipping, with minimum environmental impacts.

One drawback of renewable energy is its instability — reliability comes from combining various renewable sources. An Irish government study concluded that a stable green energy system must include a minimum of 50% of the energy to come from wave power.

Waves4Power (W4P) has created a wave power system to survive the toughest possible conditions. The system’s surface installation makes it easy to service; and it can be placed nearly anywhere.

Waves4Power’s configuration is unique. The W4P buoy is best described as a gigantic hydraulic pump, where a water piston in a long acceleration tube under the buoy is forced – by the heave of the buoy up and down on the waves – to pump hydraulic oil to a hydraulic motor with a generator connected to it. Each buoy is connected to a common underwater cable to lead the power from all the buoys to shore and the power grid.  All of the components in W4P are commonly available and well-tested, making the solution inexpensive and cost-effective to maintain and service.

W4P estimates that wave power has a future development potential equal to or better than wind power. Wave power parks can be placed in the middle of the oceans producing hydrogen instead of electricity, or close to shore connected to the local power grid for electric energy production. The cost for producing wave power will in a few years time be on par with, or cheaper than, any other available green energy. Projected life expectancy for a W4P wave power buoy is 25 years. After that, Waves4Power estimates that 95% of materials can be recycled after the buoy is decommissioned.

As the global population grows, the oceans covering 70% of the earth’s surface represent an excellent opportunity for sustainable power production. Ocean power — whether wave, tidal, current, or osmotic (salinity gradients) power generation — are all in development, many ready for large-scale deployment. An IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (2011) estimates a global potential of 500 GW for wave energy. This resource remains barely tapped, but if as little as 4 percent of potential could be realized, emissions of 26 million tonnes per year would be eliminated by the year 2022.

Waves4Power has tested and verified its W4P system and is ready for larger-scale production of a 1.0 buoy. After that, a fully functional demonstration wave power park with at least 3 buoy collectors, connected to the power grid, would be the next step. An ideal location for this wave park is Norway, where waves are good and final verification of the concept can go forward. Beyond this, Waves4Power will target Scotland, Ireland, and Portugal, due to available subsidies and conditions. Parks in Scandinavia should be possible in a few years’ time.
Technologically, further refinements of the energy extraction process are important, though the most exciting development is in creating larger parks in central locations that produce hydrogen and can be transported to locations anywhere in the world. The company’s ambition is to develop Gothenburg, Sweden as a hub for competence and production of wave energy solutions, for global exports.

Barriers and Challenges

Remaining barriers to deployment of W4P systems are not primarily technical, but rather related to policy frameworks and mobilizing investments.
However the investment levels that have occurred for wind power plants make wave power quite attractive. System survival in tough ocean conditions is the single most important issue to overcome in designing these systems. W4P’s system has at least 15 years of testing and use. The company’s work with marine partners helps insure W4P’s reliability and ease of servicing.

That leaves attracting investments as the company’s biggest challenge. Developing partnerships with energy companies operating in target countries Portugal, Scotland and Ireland is of high priority. Mass production of buoys is another anticipated challenge for the future. Waves4Power is working with the Swedish support organisations OEC (Ocean Energy Center) and Cleantech Inn to build the necessary wave energy solutions network, though more partners are needed. Lastly, support of governments is important to hasten the quick commercialization of the solution.

Waves4Power is a new company, though members of its core team have 25 years experience in the realm of wave energy. The Fredrikson family, including Gunnar, Göran and Hans, form the heart of the company along with new CEO Ulf Lindelöf; a technical team includes Lennart Cleasson (wave technology); Claus Bengtström (testing and control systems); Jan Forsberg (numerical analysis); Filip Alm (hydraulics and patents); Carl Ejnar Sölver (electric power); Per Harrie (project management), and Tore and Bengt Mårlind (marine experts). Recently, new board members Christer Andersson and Mathias Larsson have also lent their expertise to the company.