Down To Earth

Apr 6, 2011 8:45 PM by Stephanie Collins

Harnessing energy from ocean waves, right here in Colorado

Researchers and cadets at the Air Force Academy are harnessing energy from ocean waves, and they're preparing to take their emerging technology to the next level.

"Were trying to get energy out of ocean waves and trying to convert that energy into electricity," explains Dr. Stefan Siegel.

At a school in the rockies though, waves are made in a 1/ 300 scale model. The waves then travel through a wave energy converter, made from some of the same materials used on the wing of an airplane.

It's something researchers have spent the last three years developing, "We are basically able to get 95% of energy out of the wave that the converter is interacting with," explains Dr. Siegel.

Their goal is to get that number to 100%, that's when they know their device is taking all the energy from the wave. This isn't the first time energy has been generated by waves, but academy researchers hope their device will help solve problems others have had in the past, like surviving storms, "We are submerged underneath the water surface, so we are away from the most violent action you see in a typical storm," says Dr. Siegel.

Academy researchers believe wave energy will someday out perform all other forms of renewable energy. The next step is to build a larger model, at 1/10 scale, which they plan to have working by the end of the summer. The model is being built in Colorado but they will have to truck it to an offshore research technology center at Texas A&M for testing. They just don't have enough space at the Academy.

The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.



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