How this “artificial vent” aims to generalize wave energy

The first UniWave200 off King Island in Tasmania, Australia

Wave swell energy

There is a large cement structure off the coast of King Island in Tasmania, Australia that looks like some kind of futuristic sound weapon. But fear not, this is simply the latest in wave energy technology. Called UniWave200 and manufactured by Wave Swell Energy, this “man-made vent” is a new take on a classic wave energy converter known as the oscillating water column.

When the incoming waves enter the chamber, the air is compressed, which turns a turbine. But while most OWCs are bi-directional, meaning the turbine spins when air is pushed out by rising waves and when air is drawn in by falling waves, the UniWave200 is a little different.

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According to Wave Swell Energy co-founder and executive chairman Tom Denniss, model testing has actually shown that a one-way turbine is more efficient than previous two-way turbines. The increased efficiency of a unidirectional turbine could help the UniWave200 achieve its goal of transforming wave energy into renewable energy like wind and solar.

Denniss said the UniWave200 also has advantages over previous wave technologies in terms of accessibility and durability. Because the UniWave200 has no moving parts below the water surface, damage from pounding waves is less likely and repair crews will have an easier time repairing.

The potential utility of the UniWave200 extends beyond the realm of green energy. Desalination and hydrogen production could potentially be integrated into future UniWave200s, as the basic materials needed for each process – water and electricity – are readily available.

But Denniss believes the most urgent use of this technology is in some form of coastal erosion protection. For low-lying island nations threatened by more severe storms and sea level rise due to climate change, investments in dykes may be necessary. With the incorporation of wave energy technology, these potential future dykes could not only be self-financing, but also generate income and green energy for communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.

But first, King Island’s UniWave200 will have to lead the way. The first of its kind in the world, it should be connected to the King Island grid at the end of February and produce electricity by the end of March.

Denniss tells me that the UniWave200’s starting cost is less than the starting cost of wind and solar at the same stage of its development, and he predicts that the cost will decline at a similar rate as the technology develops. .

About Kristina McManus

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