Ocean and marine energy generating units have taken a number of forms as developers look to capitalize in the expanding marine and hydrokinetics sector, but researchers at the University of California-Berkeley have proposed a new one: carpet.
This "seafloor carpet" draws its inspiration from real-world muddy seabeds that have been shown to absorb wave energy, UC-Berkeley assistant professor Reza Alam told Hydroworld.com.
To turn this action into a form of power generation, Alam and his team placed a thin sheet of rubber on top of a grid of hydraulic actuators, cylinders and tubes. As waves move the rubber "carpet" up and down, hydraulic pressure created is then converted into power.
According to data recently presented at the 10th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference in Denmark, research showed the wave carpet is capable of absorbing more than 90 percent of incoming wave energy.
"There is a vast amount of untapped energy in the oceans, and with increasing demand worldwide for power, the need to find cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels is critical," Alam said. "We are also seeing greater population growth among coastal cities, so the ocean-based system we are developing would produce electricity in a carbon-neutral way right where it is needed."
Alam's estimates show one square meter of the seafloor carpet system could generate enough electricity to power two households, while an installation of about 100 square meters could produce as much energy as a 6,400 square meter solar panel array.
Currently, the team is looking for areas for testing. Ideally, the group said the system should be located in shallow coastal waters about 60 feet deep and in an area with little marine life.
"We plan to start testing this system in the ocean within the next two years, and we hope to have it ready for commercial use within the next 10 years," Alam said.