Ecotricity set to harness wave power

Green energy company Ecotricity has today (January 23) unveiled plans to install 200 wave power devices off the UK coast as it looks to grow its portfolio of wind and tidal technologies.

The Searaser device, which pumps pressurised seawater into an onshore turbine to turn wave power into renewable electricity, is anticipated to produce renewable energy at a significantly lower cost than other renewable technologies.

According to Ecotricity, the 240kW pump has the capacity to create electricity at a cost of just 2p per Kwh and is a cheaper alternative to nuclear power, which costs about 10p kWh. It also claims the devices will address two major barriers to the deployment of renewable energy in the UK – cost and variable output.

Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said that Ecotricity’s investment will drive the next phase of Searasers’ development and he anticipates the Searasers will be deployed around the British coastline within five years.

He added: “Our vision is for Britain’s electricity needs to be met entirely from the big three renewable energy sources – the wind, the sun and the sea.

“Until now, the sea has been the least viable of those three energy sources and we believe that Searaser will change all of that. Indeed we believe Searaser has the potential to produce electricity at a lower cost than any other type energy, not just other forms of renewable energy but all ‘conventional’ forms of energy too.”

Developed by Devon engineer Alvin Smith, Searaser harnesses the power of ocean swells to create electricity. Mr Smith said that the device tackles a major main barrier to making wave-power efficient and cost-effective is the resilience against the hostile ocean environment.

He added: “Most existing wave technologies seek to generate electricity in the sea itself. But as we know water and electricity don’t mix – and seawater is particularly corrosive – so most other devices are very expensive to manufacture and maintain.

“But Searaser doesn’t generate the electricity out at sea. It simply uses the motion of the ocean swell to pump seawater through an onshore generator.”

The announcement also coincides with plans, set to be released tomorrow (January 24), by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to turn the South West of England into silicon valley of Marine Energy technology.

Energy and climate change minister Greg Barker, said: “Marine Energy is a real priority for the coalition government.

“It’s great news that Ecotricity are now making waves in marine power with their plans for Searaser. The UK leads the world in developing marine energy technology and it’s vital that the sector continues to bring forward innovative new technologies.

“Marine energy is becoming an increasingly attractive investment for businesses, not least because we are proposing more than a doubling of financial support to the sector through the ROCs scheme.”

An animation of Searaser can be downloaded here.

Carys Matthews

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