Posts Tagged ‘environment’

A slippery answer to UK’s energy needs?

July 15, 2008

A few weeks ago I wrote about plans to use the Pentland firth in the Orkneys as a trial site for marine-based renewable energy. I said at the time that it has always seemed plain daft that the sea-bound UK is not storming ahead with wave and tidal power systems. So I’m pleased to see that the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has announced that UK scientists have been working on a renewable energy concept called the “Anaconda” – a sea snake shaped device that generates electricity from ocean waves.

What is refreshing about this device is that it seems simple and potentially very low-cost since it avoids the complex mechanical construction of most wave machines. The system consists of a long, hollow rubber ‘snake’, closed at both ends and filled with water. The snake is suspended a few metres below the surface of the sea. When a wave hits the snake it causes a bulge inside the tube which travels down the length of the snake. When the bulge reaches the other end of the tube the pressure of the water drives an electricity turbine.

The inventor’s website has full details of how it all works, including a video of a small-scale experiment. They reckon a full-scale device could generate 1MW for a cost of around £2 million, which is much less than other wave devices, and the EPSRC reckons sea trials could begin within just five years.


Vikings predicted our renewable future

April 16, 2008

There was an interesting piece in the FT yesterday about the potential for sea tidal power to be used to generate renewable energy in the Orkney islands. Scientists estimate that the Pentland Firth, that strip of ocean which separates the islands from the mainland, could generate a whopping 10% of the energy needs of the whole of the UK.

As a technologist, with a deep interest in environmental issues, it has always seemed plain daft that sea-bound UK is not storming ahead with wave and tidal power systems. Although it’s good to see that there are trials going on around Orkney and that £15m in grants have been ploughed into exploring the practical realities, it seems peanuts compared to to what’s being invested in other energy sources.

It seems to me that the ancient Vikings actually had the right idea for where the future of the islands lay – according to the article in the FT, the Icelandic meaning of Orkney is “energy islands”!