Sustainable Energy

Innovative wave technology could be used to provide homes with low-cost energy

Key Points
  • The device was developed by researchers in Scotland and Italy. 
  • The European Commission has described "ocean energy" as being both abundant and renewable.
Universities of Trento, Bologna and Edinburgh and Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna Pisa.

Engineers have developed wave energy technology that could help to produce low-cost electricity for thousands of households.

In an announcement Wednesday, the University of Edinburgh said that the device could convert wave power into electricity and had been designed "to be incorporated into existing ocean energy systems."

Experiments in an ocean simulator have shown that one full-size device was able to produce the equivalent of 500 kilowatts, the university added. This represents enough electricity for roughly 100 houses.

The device, called a Dielectric Elastomer Generator, uses flexible rubber membranes and can fit on the top of vertical tubes.

According to the university, when these tubes are put in the sea, they partially fill with water that "rises and falls with wave motion."

The university adds that when waves pass the tube, the water inside it pushes trapped air which in turn inflates and deflates a generator at the top of the device. While the membrane inflates, a voltage is produced, which increases when the membrane deflates, producing electricity.

"Wave energy is a potentially valuable resource around Scotland's coastline, and developing systems that harness this could play a valuable role in producing clean energy for future generations," David Ingram, from the University of Edinburgh's School of Engineering, said in a statement Wednesday.

The study was undertaken in collaboration with researchers at the University of Trento, University of Bologna and the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna Pisa in Italy. It was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A and supported by Wave Energy Scotland and the European Union Horizon 2020 program.

The European Commission has described "ocean energy" as being both abundant and renewable. Ocean energy could potentially contribute around 10 percent of the European Union's power demand by 2050, according to the Commission.

In addition to the work being carried out at Edinburgh, the U.K. is home to a number of interesting marine based renewable energy projects.

In August 2018, for example, Scotrenewables Tidal Power, which is now known as Orbital Marine Power, announced that a tidal turbine had generated record levels of power production in its first year of testing at the European Marine Energy Center in Orkney, Scotland.

The 2 megawatt SR2000 turbine produced more than 3 gigawatt hours of renewable electricity in less than 12 months, according to the firm.