In a lab at Texas A&M University, a team of former U.S. Air Force Academy aerospace engineers have been experimenting with a new generation of wave power tools in a tank half the size of a football field. Typically used for testing offshore oil and gas platforms, the tank has recently been used to test a prototype device that uses components similar to airplane wings to generate power.
Incoming waves rotate a pair of wings around a central axis and the movement activates generators, which transform the mechanical energy into electricity. The team believes that the mechanism, floating just below the ocean’s surface, can successfully capture 95 percent of a wave’s energy. The prototype, about one-tenth the size of a full-scale device, produced 370 watts during testing; a full-scale version should be able to power 3,000 to 4,000 homes. Of course, there are differences between testing in a tank and the ocean, where storms, marine life, and an unpredictable environment can mess with equipment.
“The engineering issues are huge,” team leader Stefan Siegel admitted to the Houston Chronicle. “It’s much more difficult than getting an airplane in the air.”
(Photo: Oceanflow Energy/Creative Commons via Flickr)