Martin Ottaway van Hemmen and Dolan

Making Ocean Wave Energy Conversion Viable for All

Renewable energy

SurfWEC is a wave energy technology designed to provide utility-level, low-cost, sustainable power in mild to moderate wave climates where many disadvantaged people live.

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Lead Organization

Martin Ottaway van Hemmen and Dolan

Tinton Falls, New Jersey, United States

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Project Summary

Prosperity and access to low-cost, clean energy are directly related, and stable, on-demand, low-cost, carbon-free electricity is a major challenge facing developing countries concerned with global warming and rising sea levels. To deal with these urgent problems, Wave Energy Conversion (WEC) is a particularly attractive solution for small island developing states. The SurfWEC system is the only WEC concept capable of providing utility-level, low-cost electricity to humans living along most ocean coastlines due to the kinetic energy imparted to the system by creating surf conditions outside the surf-zone. The $100M investment in the SurfWEC system is planned to result in four locally constructed projects, one each in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, and South Pacific Ocean regions. The SurfWEC system is a rapidly deployable and scalable energy source that can provide much needed, sustainable electricity for consumer use, water desalination, and hydrogen fuel creation for all.

Problem Statement

Island nations and developing coastal nations across the world have limited access to electricity. The electric power supplied in most of these regions comes from imported fossil fuels which results in electricity rates which are up to 8 times the average rate in the United States (The average electricity rate in the US is $0.12/kWh and the Solomon Islands is $0.99/kWh). This brings financial and environmental hardship to people throughout the South Pacific, Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Indian Ocean regions. This problem exists due to a lack of renewable power infrastructure in these regions. Installing SurfWEC systems near the Solomon Island coastlines exposed to the open Pacific Ocean will provide utility level electricity production (over 10,000 megawatt-hours per unit per year) to the residents of the Solomon Islands and enable the electricity rates to be reduced from $0.99/kWh to $0.50/kWh within 10 years of initiation of electricity production from the project. The Solomon Islands are where the smallest change can have the biggest impact, but there are numerous countries which could see similar gains in affordable, clean energy sources such as Vanuatu, Fiji, Jamaica, US Virgin Islands, Sri Lanka, and India. The M&O team has processed wave data from these regions and projected performance based on the hydrodynamics and physics of wave tank tests. It is the wavelength that is critical to SurfWEC power conversion performance vice wave height as in other existing ocean wave energy conversion systems.

Solution Overview

The SurfWEC units perform as adjustable offshore reefs or shoals during most of the year, this enables the waves in mild to moderate wave climates to move big floats at high speeds which enables significant electricity production. The units will be installed in water deep enough so the units can be lowered near the seafloor in storms for safety. We will record our progress by recording the electricity delivered to shore and incoming wave conditions. We will also use maintenance records to provide projections of maintenance costs as the scale of projects continues to increase. Over a five-year period, the project will impact the problem of high electricity rates by reducing the rates by 25 percent at project locations which will help stabilize the economy in the project region. We anticipate the $100 million funding level will reduce the electricity rate by 25 percent over five years for at least 5000 homes. All the residents of the project regions will benefit from the project due to a stable supply of electricity at reduced rate and reduced dependence on fossil fuels. This project is inherently scalable to a global level at rates similar to containerization and cellular phone networks. Building one prototype in the United States, optimized for SIDS regions, will provide a template for manufacturing at project locations. After that unit is deployed, fabrication of three additional units will proceed at project locations. Global island and coastal communities will benefit from this project.

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Project Funders

  • US Environmental Protection Agency 2006 - 2007
  • Office of Naval Research 2010 - 2011
  • US Army Picatinny Arsenal 2011

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