Giant Oyster machine waves in electricity

The new wave-harnessing electricity generator heads from the test pool to the open ocean in the waters off the Orkney Islands.

The Oyster in open position. Aquamarine

A new approach to harnessing the ocean's power for energy is getting some positive attention.

The Oyster, a giant oscillating device developed by Aquamarine Power that uses hydraulic technology to convert wave power into electricity, won the "Innovator of 2009" award from Britain's Renewable Energy Association in June.

Then on July 15 the Edinburgh, Scotland-based company was awarded 60 million pounds (over $101 million) by the U.K.'s Department of Energy and Climate Change to further develop its device.

Now comes the that the Oyster is set to be installed and working at a test site by this fall, according Aquamarine Power.

Unlike other attempts at ocean power, the Oyster does not use the waves themselves as the force to turn turbines and generate electricity directly with an underwater generator. Instead, the wave power is harnessed to activate a series of pistons in the Oyster to vigorously pump ocean water to shore through an underwater pipeline. A conventional hydro-electric generator is then used to convert what has become a high-pressure water source into electricity.

The simple approach, which has been tried in other forms by projects like the Seadog Pump, is thought to be more scalable.

The Oyster will be installed at European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) by Fugro Seacore in the waters of the Orkney Islands, the series of islands off northern Scotland where the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean come together.

Preliminary studies on the device conducted in wave pools showed that 10 Oysters could supply power to about 3,000 homes, according to statistics provided by Aquamarine Power.

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