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Waving or drowning - is an Anaconda the answer?

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Richard Cable | 20:10 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

In renewable energy terms - that is, non-carbon producing power generation - wave power would appear to be a much better source of potential energy than wind power. Primarily, this is because waves, while produced by the wind, tend to be much more consistent than the wind. (When was the last time you went to the beach and thought: 'There really are no waves at all?')

So why the heavy focus on legions of white Wind Martians marching across our spotless countryside? Well, because wave power is much more difficult to harness. It's slow and irregular, therefore difficult to convert into electricity, and it's ferocious. Salt water and high seas can dispense with a fancy man-made turbine quicker than a pressure group can be formed to complain about how ghastly it looks floating around off our spotless coastline.

But a prototype built by a small British company may have taken the first steps towards a truly workable solution (with apologies to existing wave energy capture projects like Portugal's Aguçadoura Wave Park.)

The 'Anaconda' explained on the New Scientist YouTube channel

Checkmate Seaenergy's 'Anaconda' is potentially game-changing because, it has 'so has very few moving parts to maintain'. Unlike other solutions, it provides a radical answer to the business of being persistently battered by waves: there's hardly anything to break.

That's right. It's basically a big rubber tube full of water that waves 'squeeze' as they travel past. The resulting bulges are forced, by the wave, along the tube, gathering energy which is ultimately converted into electricity by a turbine at the end.

The simplicity is beguiling, but at the moment the prototype is only eight feet long and has only been tested in a lab. The full-scale version will cost several million to build and will be subjected to the true fury of nature. Even if it does work in the real world, it's projected that around 50 Anacondas, each 200 metres long, would be required to power 50,000 (presumably coastal) homes.

Not great stats, but interesting and the technology could well improve. One to watch.


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