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Ocean waves -- our new electricity supplier

2010-07-01

Ocean waves contain enormous amounts of energy. With the right technological solutions, wave power will be able to compete with today’s largest renewable source of energy, water power.

Uppsala researchers have developed an entirely unique energy technology that is adapted to the slow movements of waves. Now this technology is to be deployed in the world’s first commercial wave power array.

- The future looks very bright. It’s gratifying to be able to say that our concept – which is based on simple and robust technology – actually works, says Mats Leijon, professor of electricity at Uppsala University, whose research team developed the technology.

What’s special about this wave power facility is that it is driven by a so-called linear generator, to which a buoy is attached with a line. An ordinary generator converts rotation energy to electricity and needs to spin at more than a thousand revolutions per minute to be efficient, but the linear generator can produce electricity from the slow movements of the buoy as it rides the waves up and down.

The technology has been tested in an experimental facility outside of Lysekil on the west coast of Sweden and then been further developed by the spin-out company Seabased, with support from several energy companies, among others.

- The system is inexpensive, robust, extremely environmentally friendly, and can cope with the tremendous strains of the sea environment, says Jan Sundberg, coordinator of the Lysekil project.

Now the energy company Fortum wants to use the technology to expand its green electricity production with a commercial wave power array on the west coast. It will be the first wave power station in the world to supply electricity to private individuals.

- It’s calculated that Swedish wave power should be able to provide about ten percent of Sweden’s energy needs, but along the Atlantic coast the conditions are much better. If wave power was developed along the Norwegian coast, it would be able to supply all the electricity needs of all of northern Europe, says Jan Sundberg.

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Wave Power Project – Lysekil

Energy research at Uppsala University has a multidisciplinary approach. This holistic view is necessary if the findings are to be able to contribute effectively to the sustainable development of society.