Scientists at the University of California Davis are working to develop a technology that will allow sailing ships to generate electricity from the ocean while they are far from the shores. This fleet of sailing ships would then turn wind power into hydrogen, which would be stored onboard, to be unloaded later and used.
The sailing ships will be equipped with hydropower generators comprising of two wing-like underwater blades which oscillate by the force of water to produce energy when it is ploughed through the water. The electricity produced is used to generate hydrogen by splitting seawater into oxygen and hydrogen.
According to the researchers, the sailing ships are able to reach speeds of up to 46 kilometres per hour (25 knots). They also said that ships with 400 square metres of sail and operating in a moderate force of 15 metres per second, could produce up to 100 kilowatts of electricity. Max Platzer and Nesrin Sarigul-Klijn at the University of California, Davis, said that in the future it is possible to build larger ships capable of generating up to 1 megawatt.
“Obviously, this is a roundabout way of generating electricity instead of converting wind or water flow energy directly into electricity using stationary windmills or hydroturbines,” Platzer says.
In terms of amount of energy extracted, this method is profitable because the water that flows through the underwater generator has a power density of 36 kilowatts per square meter, way more than the 1.2 KW/sq meter from a rotating wind turbine.