The world’s first commercial wave farm went live at the end of September in Agucadoura, located off the coast of northern Portugal. Designed by Pelamis Wave Power, the farm employs three Wave Energy Converters - snakelike, semi-submerged devices that generate electricity with hydraulic rams driven by waves. This first phase of the new renewable energy farm is rated at 2.25 MW with 3 machines, and the the second phase will add an additional 25 machines to bring the capacity to 21 MW - enough to power 15,000 homes!
We’ve been following the Pelamis Wave Power project since last year and are very excited to see it come to fruition. Each Pelamis Wave Energy Converter measure 140 meters long and 3.5 meters in diameter, so they do take up significant amount of space out in the ocean. Still, the potential from this energy source is huge - the world’s waves are estimated to generate 2 Terawatts of power. To put that in perspective, the US currently has a generating capacity of just over 1 TW.
Pelamis Wave Energy Converters are tethered to the ocean floor by cables and are pointed perpendicular to the coastline. Each device is composed of several sections connected with articulated joints. As the waves roll in past the device, each section is driven up and down, while the hydraulic rams inside resist the motion. This resistance pumps high pressure fluid through hydraulic motors, which drive electric generators, thereby producing electricity. This electricity is then transmitted via underwater cables to the mainland.
Naturally, the amount of electricity generated depends upon the power of the waves at any given time, so like wind and solar energy, the electricity generated is not on demand. It’s an exciting renewable resource however, and Portugal’s new wave farm marks an important first step towards proving the technology, creating demand, and driving down the price. Soon you might see these off your local beach, assuming the conditions are right.
If you’re not one to get seasick, check out the video of their seatrials, which shows the wave energy converters in action.