While we at Genergy specialize in Solar Energy for industrial and domestic set-ups, we are also aware of other renewable energy technologies out there. This one caught our eyes: ocean wave energy.
There are some people who, when they see the ocean, think of it as a massive battery waiting for someone to understand it. The amount of continuous energy emanating from the ocean is mind-boggingly enormous, but without any way of harnessing it, is about as much use as, let’s say, a nuclear power plant after someone has dropped a spanner in the mechanisms. Remember that?
So obvious is to so many people that the ocean could be the answer to our massive energy needs, that NASA put out an open call for wave energy innovations in 2014.
There have since been many ideas that have come forward, including the WaveHub operation off the coast of Cornwall, http://www.wavehub.co.uk/.
The main problem with wave energy systems is that the ocean is one rugged place. Solar panels get to feel the wind and the rain, and the storms lash at them, but they tend to stay intact, pretty much, for years, and have decades-long guarantees. They don’t have the constant threat of rough seas, and the resultant massive maintenance costs that ocean-housed technologies have and what have been keeping investors away for years.
The only way for an ocean-housed wave energy system to be viable in a place like South Africa is for it to be helluva rugged. From the 8 meter south west swells that smash into the Cape, to the monster southerly swells that storm up the east coast, to those giant easterly swells that smash the coast after a big onshore blow, something has to be seriously tough. These are seas that destroy ships on a regular basis. These are the seas that result from the Cape Of Storms. No gently lapping Cornish shorelines here. The South African coastline is a big coastline, in all senses of the word.
There is a new kid in town however, and it shows promise to possibly be the way forward due to its ruggedness. Called The Triton, it has less moving parts than any other technology, therefore less open to maintenance issues.
In very simple terms, there is a floating ring. This is tethered to a heavy plate that is submerged beneath the floating ring while staying attached to it.
As the engineers explain, the heavy plate wants to stay still, so the movement caused by waves creates a constant change in tension in the tethers. It’s that tension change that the generators tap into to generate electricity.
Next to solar and wind, wave energy could quite possibly be the next big thing, and South Africa would be a great place to harvest such energy.
So if you have a house near the sea, you might soon be able to plug into the ocean as well as the sun, to keep the Eskom wolves at bay.