World's Fair

Let’s hope it’s the latter, or we’ll for sure need some Superhero action, and certainly not the kind that the Wonder Twins espouse (hands down, lamest superheroes if you ask me).

Anyway, what do you think? These would be pretty grand in the Spiderman villain mayhem and destruction category.


Except that these are actually a newish technology designed to harness “wave energy.” This being the kinetic energy stored by the movement of water, which itself was initiated via the wind blowing on the water itself. Here’s quote taken from Ocean Power Delivery Ltd, a company about to launch a 5 arm test run off the coast of Portugal:

Ocean waves represent a considerable renewable energy resource. Waves are generated by the wind as it blows across the ocean surface. They travel great distances without significant losses and so act as an efficient energy transport mechanism across thousands of kilometres. Waves generated by a storm in mid-Atlantic will travel all the way to the coast of Europe without significant loss of energy.

All of the energy is concentrated near the water surface with little wave action below 50 metres depth. This makes wave power a highly concentrated energy source with much smaller hourly and day-to-day variations than other renewable resources such as wind or solar. Conveniently, the seasonal variation of wave power closely follows the trend for electricity consumption in Western Europe.

The western seaboard of Europe offers an enormous number of potential sites. The most promising sites are off the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal and Norway.

There is sufficient energy breaking on the UK shoreline to power the country three times over. However, it is not practical to recover all of this energy. The economically recoverable resource for the UK alone has been estimated to be 87TWh per year, or ~25% of current UK demand.

Basically, the other apparent pro is that folks argue there appears to be good likelihood of minimal environmental impact (so far anyway), in that the energy being harness is from the slow movements of hydrolics pushed by enormous forces created by large volumes of water.

There’s even a graphic you can play around with:

Apparently, one of these babies is good to go with powering up about 750kW per hour. Line them up as a wave farm and you’ve definitely got something worth looking into.


And what’s ironic is that after all is said and done, the Wonder Twins may be useful after all.

“Form of big honking wave! Shape of big red bent chopstick looking thing!” (O.K. Maybe not).


  1. #1 BRC
    October 7, 2006

    How about that. I had a student a few years ago write a research paper on tidal power, and I guess it was an especially bad student, because I never saw any details nearly as interesting as the above in the student’s entire paper.

    Oh, and but what about the kelp? Who’s looking out for the kelp harmed by these seaward monstrosities? (Bill O’Reilly, in his next book, perhaps?)

  2. #2 David Ng
    October 7, 2006

    No problemo. The kelp, of course, will get priority for all Nuclear Energy related job opportunities, so I think as a whole, it all works out. But seriously, I got the impression that these things really move so slowly that there’s not so much to worry about from the “thrashing mechanical monstrosity” department.

    I’m guessing the caveat is whether the absorption of all that kinetic energy would result in a significant enough loss of tidal movement, which in turn affects some element of the ecosystem that needs it (for this or that).