A wave power test plant has been deployed on Nov. 17 two miles offshore of Fort Pierce, Fla., and is now being tested by its designers, researchers from Florida Institute of Technology’s College of Engineering.
The power plant has been named “Wing Waves,” and works by harvesting the elliptical motion of waves 30 to 60 feet deep, and converting it into electricity.
“You just need a nice sandy bottom – we stay away from coral reefs – and a 40- to 50-foot depth. You can think of them as sea fans,” Stephen Wood, an assistant professor of marine and environmental systems at the fore-mentioned college, told Discovery.com.
He estimates that such wave wings spread over a mile area, which would count in about 1,000 units, could generate enough electricity to power at least 200,000 US homes.
The device works even when waves are calm, swaying 30 degrees from side to side, with a complete cycle lasting 8 to 10 seconds. When the ocean is too restless, though, the Wing Waves shut down to prevent damage caused by excessive wave power. The patent for the technology belongs to Clean and Green Enterprises, Inc.
The Wing Waves device will be retrieved from operation next week. It’s momentarily made of aluminum, but the commercial models to come will be made of a stronger composite, much more resistant to corrosion than the prototypes. The new final material will have an approximate lifespan of 20 years, provided it is serviced constantly.
And, as a final note, the Wing Waves doesn’t hurt turtles and actually attracts fish, thus diminishing the impact on the sea environment. It’s also much more blended into the landscape than wind turbines.