Pelamis Wave Power—Another Alternative Energy Bust

Written by Dr Klaus L.E. Kaiser

If you ever walked along an ocean shore you’ll have seen the constant waves rolling in. wave powerAccording to Wikipedia, the idea to harness that wave energy has been proposed as early as 1799. Over the last 15 years several technologies have been proposed. Among them, the Pelamis wave power system is one of a couple of dozens of ocean wave energy extraction schemes.

As many (or all?) “alternative” energy schemes, they all sound good on paper. In reality, though, they do not live up to the expectations. The Pelamis system, developed and deployed in Scotland, is just one example.

The Pelamis System

The Pelamis system consists of a string of large steel tubes that bob up and down along the wave contour on the ocean surface. The semi-submerged tubes are partially filled with water that sloshes back and forth inside and drives small turbines within the tubes.

The first picture below shows one Pelamis string in the ocean water offshore Scotland’s north shore.

pelamis 1

More interesting is a view of a tube interior, as in the second picture.

pelamis 2

As you can see from the number of wheels on the carrier, these tubes are a fair size.

The Pelamis Problem

Despite the company’s claims of “Since 1998, the Pelamis development programme has covered all aspects of the design from the fundamental concept refinement through to accelerated cycle testing of individual components for reliability,” there is always a “weak link.” As you can imagine, the constant push and pull by the ocean waves does cause wear and tear on all parts that connect the tubes along the string and tether the leading tube edge to the ocean bottom.

In November 2014 the company essentially declared bankruptcy with a statement by its board that reads “The directors of Pelamis regret to announce that they have been unable to secure the additional funding required for further development of the Company’s market leading wave energy technology. As a result of this the board has reluctantly moved to appoint an administrator to assess the options for securing the future for the business and employees of Pelamis….”

Obviously, the claim that “Pelamis is the world’s most advanced wave energy technology and company” does not guarantee any reliable, sustained, and competitive alternative energy generation. Of course, these types of problems are common to all floating ocean wave power generator schemes. In order to avoid them, recently engineers became more interested in stationary wave power devices.

Stationary Wave Power Schemes

Stationary Wave Power Schemes use fixed support structures that extract the wave energy with movable parts of one sort or another. The Blue Power Energy Co. has ashort video with some design principles. When watching it, just remember, they are concepts only. Statements like “The concept involves converting the linear heaving motion of a wave energy buoy into rotational kinetic energy using our innovative linear/rotary gear box. The gear box drives a flywheel which then drives a standard Permanent Magnet electric generator” do not harness any energy at all. They just want you to buy into their idea to support the development cost.

Of course, you are always welcome to dream up another ocean wave power generation system next time you hike along the ocean shore. Perhaps you may even be able to persuade a bureaucrat or politician to fund a prototype.

However, when it comes to delivering all the promised energy, more likely than not, it’s going to be just another alternative energy generation bust.

Addendum, Jan. 7, 2015

In October 2014, a report [1] appeared that provides additional support to my claim of the preponderance of natural CO2 emissions. That report describes the additional seamounts recently discovered by more detailed mapping of the ocean floor. As a result, the number of such ocean volcanoes and vents quadrupled overnight, from 5,000 to 20,000. Though many of these seamounts sprang up in pre-historic times and may not be showing any current activity whatsoever, a good portion likely does. The sheer number of such newly discovered structures is certainly surprising.

[1] B. Oskin, Live Science, Geological Wonderland: Thousands of Seamounts Discovered in New Seafloor Map; .  

Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts

 Dr. Kaiser can be reached

Comments (2)

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    some interesting stuff i like the sound of sierra energy and was dreaming about something like it the other day so will include it in my next crabby hadvencha i write spoffy stories -anyhow, please dont be cynical we only have one earth and cant afford to loose it; yes global warming is caused partly by caRBON EMISSIONS, and IS BASeD ON A CHEMICAL EQUATION IN THE ATMOSSPHERE wind power is one way to create energy and is being used in europe to power domestic and big energy needs. off shore wind farms are quite beautifuel to behold. we are trying to create an energy storage system for renwables and hope to make a breakthrough on this. also it could create many jobs for unemployed people in the UK and we are very in need of jobs too.-like the USA,and EU local food is good, as is protecting and restoring ecologies. as a landscape design degree student i realise this.Growing trees is good. one tree is one ton of carbon locked up thats good too. trees also help wildlife give a good aura and make people feel good too. walking and cycling are good for ones health and in a local community you can get to know your neighbours more if you are not trapped in a car so much.stay safe and be brave about friendship not scared of other cultures please. nice to say hallo look after the BEES n butterflys thanks for the cuppa tea anyhow yours sincerely capn crabbe the origial east coast UK eco warrior from lostshpofdunwic hunderseatales aha mmmm by the way nuclear power can be devasting too so lets all try walking lightly eh chow benoleq i have no axe to grind peace ps am an artist from the UK called ben quail see my art at www, also i have a book published by called ‘a fairly natural history alphabet’ please no bad spam as i too have to earn aliving chow. from the Uk peace benoleqlowie

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    Why do we need alternative energy from waves or anything if it costs more than coal or nuclear?

    There is now a new page with comprehensive evidence that all should read [url=]here[/url].


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