Seafloor Carpets Could Harness Oceanic Energy

Engineers at UC Berkeley have designed a system to harness the power of waves using a seafloor carpet.

wave, energy, sea, ocean, current, solar, renewable, coastlineAcross the planet people are consuming increasingly large amounts of energy. As scientists and researchers search for ways to meet this demand, one locatio looks like it might provide an answer to this glaring problem: the Ocean.

As a huge interconnected body, the ocean carries with it a massive amount of kinetic energy. In recent years wave-energy generators have been gaining favor with researchers and scientists looking to harness the power of the ocean; however, current systems only scratch the surface of the potential energy stored within the deep blue sea. In an effort to gather more of this energy, researchers at UC Berkeley have invented a wave-to-energy conversion system that rests on the ocean floor.

Created using a carpet of rubber that sits atop a series of actuators, the new system generates power by leveraging the energy in crashing waves and churning currents. As the ocean passes over or violently crashes into this carpet its hydraulic actuators move downward, imparting kinetic energy to the system. That energy can then be transmitted to generators nearby which will transmit or store the power they convert.

According to Reza Alam, a UC Berkeley professor, “There is a vast amount of untapped energy in the oceans, and with increasing worldwide demand for power, the need to find cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels is critical … We are also seeing greater population growth along coastal cities, so the ocean-based system we are developing would produce electricity in a carbon-neutral way right where it is needed.”

In a recent presentation at the 10th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference in Denmark, the Berkeley team stated that their wave-carpet system could absorb more than 90 percent of the energy of incoming waves. When translated to a working prototype, Alam believes that a 10 square meter carpet placed on the raging California coastline could generate as much power as a solar array the size of a soccer field.

Although still in the experimental phases, Alam and his colleagues plan to use their wave-carpet in real-world tests within the next few years. “We plan to start testing this system in the ocean within the next two years, and we hope to have it ready for commercial use within the next 10 years,” said Saud Alam.

If their technology can be commercialized, growing coastal regions could begin to provide themselves with greater amounts of locally generated power, further fueling their expansion and their ability to attract new businesses.

Image Courtesy of UC Berkeley