Kiwi Wave Energy Technology on Show in US

Friday 31 August 2012, 2:02PM
By Malcolm Burgess

Innovative New Zealand-designed wave energy technology in now being trialled in the United States, one of the world’s biggest and most important energy markets.

The deployment of the Wave Energy Technology-NZ (WET-NZ) wave energy converter, in partnership with US company Northwest Energy Innovations, has been made possible thanks to a US Department of Energy grant worth nearly US $2 million.

The 18.4-meter long, 20 kW device is being tested off the Oregon coast over the next two months, during which time it will generate electricity and data to enable its further development towards full-scale commercialisation.

“This US deployment is a great opportunity to promote New Zealand technology in one of the world’s most important energy markets,” says WET-NZ’s Gavin Mitchell, General Manager Industry Engagement at Industrial Research Ltd (IRL). “Success of the design will show us as being global leaders in Wave Energy,” he says.

WET-NZ, a research collaboration between IRL and private Wellington company Power Projects Ltd (PPL), developed the device’s ‘brains’, an innovative ‘power pod’ designed to extract as much energy as possible from more than one type of wave motion - heave (up and down), surge (back and forth) and pitch (a rolling back and forth motion).

Moored to the sea floor in an upright position, the device reacts to the movement of passing waves, with the energy from those movements converted into electricity by a system of on-board hydraulics.

“This deployment will accelerate our design and development towards commercialisation and secure NZ intellectual property,” says WET-NZ’s John Huckerby, director of PPL.

The half-scale device being tested off the Oregon coast is the culmination of 8 years of research, during which New Zealand Government funding has enabled the technology to be scaled up from proof-of-concept to prototype and refined based on the results of deployments at various sites around New Zealand as well as extensive wave tank modelling.