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Aquamarine Power unveils next wave machine

The Oyster 2 is expected to be capable of sucking down more energy from ocean waves, to be transferred to an onshore hydroelectric turbine.

Artist's rendering of the Oyster 2 to be built and installed off the Orkney Islands by summer 2011.
Aquamarine Power

Aquamarine Power on Wednesday unveiled the next generation in its development of wave energy machines.

The Oyster 2 is a wave-harnessing machine enabling the conversion of hydraulic power to electricity. The new 800-kilowatt model, to be built in Scotland, will be capable of producing 250 percent more power compared to the older Oyster model. The Oyster 2 also has fewer moving parts, and is modular so that parts can be swapped out for maintenance as needed.

As with the earlier Oyster, the Oyster 2 is not the type of wave-harnessing machine that uses underwater turbines or buoys to directly generate electricity. Instead, a series of pistons triggered into action by ocean waves creates water pressure and pumps the pressurized water to shore through an underwater pipeline. The high-pressure water is then used to power a conventional hydroelectric generator.

While it seems elementary, the Oyster is at the forefront of wave-energy harnessing. Its closest competitor, the Seadog Pump, also concentrates on simply creating intense water pressure, albeit using buoys.

Three Oyster 2 machines will be installed by summer 2011 at the European Marine Energy Centre , which is located in the Orkney Islands off the coast of mainland Scotland. The three test machines will be connected to a 2.4-megawatt hydroelectric turbine onshore.

Aquamarine Power has said its long-term goal is to create an offshore commercial wave farm of 20 machines. When fully operational, the 20 machines could provide enough electricity to power 12,000 homes annually.

The company directly credits the funding it received from the U.K. government as helping spur development of the Oyster 2. In addition to being named Britain's "Innovator of 2009," Aquamarine Power received a Marine Renewables Proving Fund grant for 5.1 million pounds (over $7 million) and a U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change grant for 22 million pounds (over $31 million).

The original Oyster machine, which was built in 2009, is already operating in waters off the Orkney Islands. Aquamarine Power