New 'artificial blowhole' turns waves into energy and fights erosion
5:09

New 'artificial blowhole' turns waves into energy and fights erosion

Science
This artificial blowhole could finally make wave energy mainstream. You're looking at the uni wave 200 which was recently deployed off the coast of King Island in Tasmania, Australia. To learn more about this deceptively simple piece of technology and its potentially wide range of applications. I spoke with wave swell, energy's co founder and executive chair Dr. Tom Dennis, we think that this will be the first technology to make wave energy commercially viable. That's why the uni wave 200 design is inspired by a natural phenomenon. The blowhole. What it is is a cave in the rock face and as the waves come in, they cause the water level inside that cave to rise and compressors squash or squeeze that air. We have an artificial version of that, it's a sorta a neater chamber. When the waves enter from the large underwater opening at the front, they cause the water level inside that chamber to rise and we have a small opening That air passes through very quickly and that spins a turbine which generates electricity. This type of wave energy technology is known as an oscillating water column. They've been around for decades but nothing quite like the UniWave 200. Normally in the past, as the wave rose inside the chamber push the air one way and as Phillip sucked back the other. We only have air coming by in one direction. And that has shown in tests, smaller scale tests that it actually produces more power than than any previous bidirectional oscillating [INAUDIBLE] There's three big challenges that have so far kept wave energy from becoming a mainstream renewable like wind and solar. The first is efficiency. Is it producing enough energy to make it worthwhile? Second is durability. Can it withstand the pounding of the ocean? And third is accessiibility When something breaks, how easy is it for a crew to get out there and fix it? Here's how the uni wave 200 addresses all three.>> The waves that are approaching and have nowhere to go. I mean, yes around to the side but they can't go underneath Over the top like many other technologies, so that means that we're capturing all the energy in that way all the way through the, what's called the water column from the surface to the seabed and that improves the conversion efficiency dramatically in itself. But of course, the technology itself is. Quite efficient. The second thing is there for being closer to shore and a big chunk of concrete with my dad This is very important no moving parts whatsoever in the water survivability is really not an issue because in shallow water for stop any big waves will break before they get to the structure. And the third one is the accessibility being close to shore and with all our moving parts about About Moodle worldwide, it's very easy for any maintenance or operational work to be done.>>But anyway, 200 could also prove to be a useful tool for water desalination and hydrogen production, since it's already got the essential components needed for both water and electricity. But Tom tells me what he sees as the greatest immediate potential for this technology ��Comes from its usefulness as a form of coastal protection from erosion.�� I'll give you an example the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, the lowest lying nation on Earth. With sea level rise and more frequent extreme storm events. Those islands are in danger of eventually going under A new seawall or breakwater needs to be constructed. Normally that would just be a sunk cost, it would return nothing, and it would have some ongoing maintenance costs as well by using this technology to do that same job but at the same time produce green electricity. You actually more than pay for the structure itself and then and an end get a return from it. So it's a revenue generating seawall or breakwater. And if you're wondering how the uni wave 200 affects the marine life, it's sharespace with, here's what Tom had to say about that. There are no moving parts in the water. So There's no harm to marine life and in fact, marine life I view them as artificial reefs at Kings Island we do have to monitor the noise levels at some distance from the unit itself. But as I say that it's a noise coming from up above in the atmosphere, not the ocean. The uni wave 200 at King Island is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. It's expected to be hooked up to the grid in late February. And expected to be generating electricity by the end of March. And much like wind and solar, as this technology scales up. Tom says it will become more and more affordable. We're starting at the cost of our energy as we enter the commercial phase with this technology. That starting cost is well below the the corresponding starting cost of other technologies including wind and solar when they were at the same stage.>> As always, thanks so much for watching. I'm your host, Jesse on stay safe out there everybody.

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