MendoCoastCurrent, August 4, 2009
The Oyster is based on a large, hydraulic oscillator fitted with pistons and activated by waves. The oscillation pumps pressurized water through a pipeline to the shore. Onshore, conventional hydro-electric generators convert the high-pressure water into electricity.
The concept is based on research from Queen’s University in Belfast. “Oyster’s technology is highly innovative because it relies on simplicity,” says Ronan Doherty, CTO at Aquamarine Power.
“Its offshore component – a highly reliable flap with minimal submerged moving parts – is the key to its success when operating in seas vulnerable to bad weather where maintenance can be very difficult.” Doherty adds that as there is no underwater generator, electronics or gearbox and all the power generation equipment in onshore, where it is easily accessible.
Oyster technology is best deployed in near-shore regions at depths of 26-52 feet, where wave action tends to be more consistent and less variable in direction. The smaller size of waves near the shore also maximizes the lifetime of the device and the consistency of power generation. Each Oyster has a peak capacity of 300-600 kW but is designed to be deployed in multiple arrays.
Although still in the early stages of development, Aquamarine Power believes Oyster has great potential. “Our computer modeling of coastlines suitable for this technology shows that Spain, Portugal, Ireland and the UK are ideal candidates in Europe,” says Doherty. “But globally there is huge scope in areas like the Northwest coast of the U.S. and coastlines off South Africa, Australia and Chile.”