Islands of hope in an ocean of energy

Courtesy Wavebob.Britain and Ireland have a long and bloody mutual history.

wavebob.jpg
Courtesy Wavebob.

Britain and Ireland have a long and bloody mutual history. They've ended open hostility and the neighboring nations now share and compete with a possible future energy source: the restless waves of the North Atlantic. Both Ireland and the United Kingdom are looking to waves and sea winds as a source of future electricity generation.

My colleague, Michael Kanellos, was recently in Ireland to look at their planning and prototypes for using wave energy. One prototype buoy had to be recovered from the Atlantic due to 18-foot swells. That's a mountain of oceanic energy.

In Ireland the wave power projects are a combo of governmental support, university research and private investment. The CEO of privately owned Wavebob told Kanellos that Ireland has the best wave resources on the planet. He also said the wave power tech is about where wind was fifteen years ago. I would add that man has been using sails and windmills for thousands of years. Waves in the past have been primarily a source of seasickness, not useful energy.

Just to the north of Ireland in Northern Ireland the United Kingdom tidal power industry plans to launch its first working ocean-going generator this week. Technology's not always what its engineers may hope. The Belfast dock from which the SeaGen device, 122-feet long, will launch is the same that once saw the infamous launch of the "Titanic." I must hope that this new tech is more seaworthy and longer-lasting than that.

There are numerous plans for using tidal or wave power. SeaGen will work like an inverted windmill, with its blades under ocean's surface, thus being driven by the force of tide rushing in, then rushing out. A floating, independent device that can be assembled on the nearby shore, the SeaGen is expected to be easily deployed, not requiring years of construction and placement.

There are projects afoot around the globe to use wave power. San Francisco. Portugal. Portugal's big plans for that little nation. Australia's Oceanlinx.