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July 15, 2011

Power Plants on the High Seas

Ship You've heard of offshore wind energy. And, of course, there's wave energy. Well, get ready for offshore wave energy. Ships with the ability to harness the flowing energy of the ocean would carry batteries for energy storage. They'd hit the high seas, anchor in a suitable spot for a while, head back to land, and feed it into the grid. The idea is being worked on by a Boston University professor who sees a future in this.

Via NewScientist:

The 50-metre-long ships would harvest wave energy via buoys attached to their sides by pivoting arms. While the hull remains relatively stable, the buoys would bob up and down on the waves, causing the arms to pivot back and forth and drive a generator producing up to 1 megawatt of electrical power. The batteries are planned to have a capacity of 20 megawatt-hours, so the ships would have to stay at sea for at least 20 hours for a full charge.

The simplicity behind the concept would conceivably make it cheap, providing electricity at a rate of $0.15 per kilowatt-hour. "This would make it cheaper than energy from existing wave systems, which costs between $0.30 and $0.65 per kWh. Offshore wind energy costs from $0.15 to $0.24 per kWh, and solar power around $0.30 per kWh," says the article.

-- Brian Foley

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