Air Force set to fly ocean wave riding energy technology

Air Force researcher’s cycloidal wave energy converter could harness ocean energy

Air Force researchers will next summer test out a unique wave-powered system that could harness the ocean for limitless power. 

Known as a cycloidal wave energy converter, the system is based on the large propellers typically used on ferries and tugboats that can remove energy from any flow perpendicular to the propeller shaft; using what researchers called lift-based instead of drag-based energy conversion to shaft power.

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Grabbing power from the ocean isn't a new idea but what is unique about this system is that is won't need to be anchored to the ocean floor to work. Mooring to the ocean floor increases costs as well as susceptibility to damage from storms. Also, energy conversion efficiency and scalability can be problems.

A typical North Atlantic deep ocean wave is about 126 meters long and 3.5 meters tall, which could yield 100 kW per meter in the direction of the wave crest, according to US Air Force Academy's Dr. Stefan Siegel who is the driving force behind the cycloidal project. 

Next summer, his work will be put to what he calls "a make or break test" in Oregon State University's O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory and its  giant wave tunnel. 

"Ultimately, if things keep turning out as we see them right now, we will develop this as a commercial product, and we believe it will make a significant impact on the overall renewable energy scheme worldwide," Siegel said in an Air Force release. "What really makes me the most excited are the simulation results we have right now. The beauty of simulations is I can simulate full-sized ocean waves. We can analyze the data here and find out we can have 99% of the energy from one wave. It got us excited further when we realized this device can not only take energy from the waves, but also do it efficiently. Efficiency is the key to getting energy from ocean waves." 

The wave energy project is funded through 2011 and it got a $285,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support the research. 

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8   

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