Monday, October 22, 2012

Hydrokinetic Technologies - Wave Energy

There is also tremendous energy in waves. Waves are caused by the wind blowing over the surface of the ocean. In many areas of the world, the wind blows with enough consistency and force to provide continuous waves. The west coasts of the United States and Europe and the coasts of Japan and New Zealand are good sites for harnessing wave energy.

There are several ways to harness wave energy. The motion of the waves can be used to push and pull air through a pipe. The air spins a turbine in the pipe, producing electricity. In Norway, a demonstration tower built into a cliff produces electricity for about four cents a kWh using this method. The wail of the fast-spinning turbines, however, can be heard for miles.

Another way to produce energy is to bend or focus the waves into a narrow channel, increasing their power and size. The waves can then be channeled into a catch basin, like tidal plants, or used directly to spin turbines.

There aren’t any big commercial wave energy plants, but there are a few small ones. There are wave-energy devices that power the lights and whistles on buoys. Small, on-shore sites have the best potential for the immediate future, especially if they can also be used to protect beaches and harbors. They could produce enough energy to power local communities. Japan, which must import almost all of its fuel, has an active wave-energy program.

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