May 8, 2012 7:54 PM by Andy Koen
A local start-up company is on the cutting edge of renewable energy development by designing and building machines that make electricity by harnessing the power of ocean waves.
Atargis Energy Corporation was founded in 2010 by Air Force Academy aeronautics professor Dr. Stefan Siegel, Ph.D. The company is currently building a 1/10th scale prototype in their facility on Janitell Road for testing at tested at the Hydromechanics Laboratory at Texas A&M University next month.
"The vision is to really produce electricity at the utility scale and feed that electricity to the power grid to communities in the vicinity of the ocean shore," Siegel said.
Dr. Siegel says a single generator can produce five megawatts of electricity, enough to power a community roughly the size of Falcon. The generators would also create electricity at a similar cost per kilowatt hour as non-renewable sources like oil, gas and coal.
So, why would an aeronautics professor start a wave energy company in a land locked state? Siegel says the science is virtually the same.
"Water and air are basically just fluids," he explained. "The same laws of motion and physics apply to both of them."
Using a 1/300th scale model, Siegel demonstrated that the same forces that create lift under an airplane wing are also at work spinning the blades of his generator with passing ocean waves.
As for the location, Siegel says the design of the machine is such that a large manufacturing plant isn't necessary. Instead, the various components can easily be mass produced by existing manufacturers. The generators would then be assembled at shipyards near the coasts before installation.
Another unique attribute of the design is that it operates completely submerged, protected from heavy winds and storms on the surface of the water.
"If you go below the water surface you already don't have the impact of the wind, if you go down a little bit further, you're actually losing the impact of the wave as well and that is how our device survives storms," Siegel explains.
Atargis plans to build quarter-scale and full-size prototypes for ocean testing in the next two years. They hope to begin selling them in 2015.