UK researchers have developed a prototype of a future giant rubber tube which could catch energy from sea waves. The device, dubbed Anaconda, uses 'long sea waves to excite bulge waves which travel along the wall of a submersed rubber tube. These are then converted into flows of water passing through a turbine to generate electricity.' So far, the experiments have been done with tubes with diameters of 0.25 and 0.5 meters. But if the experiments are successful, future full-scale Anaconda devices would be 200 meters long and 7 meters in diameter, and deployed in water depths of between 40 and 100 meters. An Anaconda would deliver an output power of 1MW (enough to power 2,000 houses). These devices would be deployed in groups of 20 or even more providing cheap electricity without harming our environment. But read more...
You can see above how the Anaconda captures wave power. (Credit: unknown; diagram found on this page at This is London, July 2, 2008) "Because it is made of rubber, the Anaconda is much lighter than other wave energy devices (which are primarily made of metal) and dispenses with the need for hydraulic rams, hinges and articulated joints. This reduces capital and maintenance costs and scope for breakdowns."
The Anaconda was invented by Francis Farley, an experimental physicist, and Rod Rainey, of Atkins Oil and Gas. You'll find more details on their web site. For example, several technical papers are available from this page.
You can see above how the Anaconda devices could be used in farms of 20 or more. (Credit: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), UK)
Here is a quote from Professor John Chaplin of the School of Civil Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton who is leading the EPSRC-funded project. "The Anaconda could make a valuable contribution to environmental protection by encouraging the use of wave power. A one-third scale model of the Anaconda could be built next year for sea testing and we could see the first full-size device deployed off the UK coast in around five years' time."
These giant rubber snakes will be built by Checkmate Seaenergy, a new division of the Checkmate Group created to develop these wave energy converters.
Here are additional details provided by this system overview. "Anaconda uses an entirely novel concept to harvest wave energy. This resource is free and widely available to the UK and Eire as well as other countries with west facing ocean seaboards. The inventors (Professors Rod Rainey and Francis Farley FRS) have developed the concept of a distensible rubber tube, floating head to sea, in which bulge waves are excited by passing sea waves. The bulge waves are then used to drive a turbine generator. It is the long ocean swells which have most energy; developed by winds over hundreds or thousands of miles; these are the ones Anaconda uses. This is a particularly rich, but as yet untapped, energy resource which Government studies state could produce 3% - 5% of our electricity initially and up to 20% eventually."
On the above page, you'll also find a link to a short movie (QuickTime format, 8.7 MB, 1 minute and 31 seconds).
Even if the technology looks promising, it remains to be seen if it can move from lab experiments to the sea. Another question is unanswered. What would be the ecological impact of such big farms of giant rubber structures on the submarine environment? So far, the researchers don't answer this question.
Sources: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) news release, July 3, 2008; and various websites
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