U.K. based wind energy company Ecotricity has just bought the rights to the Searaser, a new wave power device that promises to simplify wave energy generation. The biggest issue with other wave power devices is that most generate electricity in the sea, which is a very hostile environment to electrical equipment. The Searaser doesn’t generate any electricity out at sea, but it instead it uses the power of the waves to pump seawater through an onshore generator. Ecotricity founder Dale Vince feels that the Searaser has the “potential to produce electricity at a lower cost than any other type of energy, not just other forms of renewable energy but all ‘conventional’ forms of energy too.”
As Searaser inventor Alvin Smith explains, “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.”
If you look at the Searaser diagram, you can see that it uses a vertical piston positioned between two buoys – one floating on the surface of the ocean, and the other tethered to a weight on the sea floor. As the waves move up and down, the piston pumps pressurized seawater through a pipe to an onshore turbine.
Generating the electricity onshore gets you another benefit. By pumping the seawater into a storage reservoir, the water can be released through a generator to generate additional electricity during times of peak demand. When the need for electricity drops, the reservoir can be refilled using the sea’s energy.
Ecotricity is shooting for a commercial sized Searaser to be deployed within the next 12 months, and 200 more Searaser unites deployed around the British coastline within five years.