Plugging into the power of waves

Plugging into the power of waves

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By Cameron Dueck

When we talk about renewable energy we often focus on harnessing the wind and the sun. But recently wave energy has become more popular as companies design more efficient technology and governments spend money on wave projects.

In many places around the world, including western Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa and Australia, the wind blows so constantly that there are almost always big waves on the water.

If you have ever been to the beach on a day when there are big waves, you know how powerful they can be. Wave energy machines extract that power from the motion of the waves and turn it into electricity for our homes and businesses.

We've been harvesting water power for decades by damming rivers and forcing the water to run through turbines. Scientists think harvesting the energy of waves may be an even better way to draw power from water. And with 70 per cent of the globe covered in water, it's important that we make good use of it.

But wave energy is still expensive because we're still experimenting with different machines and technology. One of the leading systems looks like a long metal 'worm' that can stretch for hundreds of metres across the sea. It is built in sections so that the energy of the movement at the joints is turned into electricity. The machine is anchored to the seabed, so that it runs parallel to the direction of the waves, and when a wave passes it makes the floating worm move up and down, and this bending motion creates energy.

Scotland has just approved 10 new marine energy projects that the government hopes will provide electricity for one-third of Scotland's homes by 2020. It will be the biggest wave energy project ever built and cost almost HK$60 billion.

It's expensive energy now, but Scotland hopes to become a leader in wave energy as scientists perfect the technology and make it more affordable.

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Cameron is available to speak to primary and secondary students about environmental and climate change issues as well as his recent Arctic sailing expedition. Contact info@openpassageexpedition.com

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