Posted By RichC on February 5, 2015
Years ago back when I was in high school and college, I still had an uninhibited imagination when it came to what mechanical innovations were possible. I wasn’t yet tainted by the words “no, can’t, impossible, unrealistic, etc.”
In those days I was studying engineering and all things mechanical, I thought by now it would be possible to have moved to clean energy generation. The previous generation harnessed hydropower and I remember my college roommate and I discussing (writing papers too) how we thought harnessing the tides would be just a matter of a few decades. Thirty-some years later we aren’t much closer to making a dent in our energy use other than a few windmills and solar farms … but those less-than-reliable clean energy producers make hardly a dent in our demands, particularly at night or when the wind dies down. Tides are like clockwork … but still the power of nature is challenging to harness particularly with the limitations of mechanical devices – something seems to thwart innovation (as does cost I suppose?)
The Scotland-based energy company is one of the few in the world that has put wave-energy devices in the water. Its red, snakelike generators made headlines in the aughts, with a handful floating off the coast of Portugal and some near Orkney, Scotland.
The design involved connecting five long floating tubes on the ocean surface that moved up and down or back and forth by wave motion. That movement was used to drive an electric generator inside each tube. Subsea cables carried the electricity back to shore. Each unit was capable of producing enough power to supply 500 houses, Brekken said.
Pelamis was converting sea waves into electric power for more than a decade when the company announced this past November its plans to shut down, claiming it couldn’t find funding to continue operating.