Nobody says that the best and the most valuable green energy generating technologies have to be large scale. In fact, as a smart person has claimed, “every little helps”, and if we could all find a way to harness even the smallest bit of energy from any renewable source, it could all add up to an incredible result.
Following this principle, a team of researchers from Wake Forest University decided to explore how much energy could be produced by recreational swimmers at the University pool, through the waves that they generate as they do their daily workout, without them even having to make an extra effort.
To begin with, Yinger ‘Eagle’ Jin, the lead researcher in this project, built a water column which converts wave energy into electricity. It works by forcing air out of the column as the waves rise, and sucking in fresh air as the waves fall. The flow of air powers a small turbine, mounted on top of the column and generates electricity. The amount of electricity is not huge, but it is completely free and effortless. On an average day, the users of the pool could produce up to 10 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which is sufficient enough to power 10 100-watt light bulbs.
Of course the team aims big and they have no intention to limit the project to an average-sized pool. Jin and his professor in mathematics Sarah Mason, developed a mathematical model, which estimates the amount of energy output from the waves in the pool, and could be applied on a large scale in bigger water bodies. The researchers are still busy making accurate calculations and predictions, however they are very optimistic about the future of wave energy production. Their higher goal is to be able to calculate precisely how much energy could be harvested from the waves at the coast of North Carolina, and they are determined to stop only when this goal is reached.
Image (c) Wake Forest University