Fossil fuels emit damaging CO2, wind and solar are variable, nuclear generates radioactive waste, while biomass, depending on the source, can encourage deforestation.
On paper, tidal and wave power would appear to be the best solution, using the ferocious force of the oceans to deliver clean, abundant and consistent energy.
Yet despite the fact the first large-scale tidal project opened in La Rance in France in the 1960s, sea power provides just a fraction of the energy delivered by its renewable counterparts – currently just 0.5GW compared with almost 400GW of wind power.
Renewed determination to harness the power of the sea.
But renewed determination to develop new technologies to harness the ocean’s power means the tidal industry could be set for something of a renaissance.
Working with institutions in Italy Researchers at the University of Edinburgh are developing a new cheaper technology that could convert the power of the sea into electricity for domestic use.
They say their design is cheaper than existing technology that converts ocean currents into power. It is made of durable materials and has fewer moving parts,
Small-scale experiments in an ocean simulator have indicated a single full-sized device could generate the equivalent of 500 kilowatts of electricity – about enough to power 100 homes.
Engineers believe the new Dielectric Elastomer Generator (DEG) device could be installed within decades, providing fleets of low-cost, easy to maintain power producing units.
Professor David Ingram, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering, who took part in the study, said:
“Wave energy is a potentially valuable resource around Scotland’s coastline and developing systems that harness this could play a valuable role in producing clean energy for future generations.”
The team from Edinburgh has been working with the Universities of Trento, Bologna and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa in Italy on the project, which they hope could take the place of conventional wave power generators, which have complex systems and expensive moving parts.