Engineers at the University of Durham say they have built the UK's largest linear electrical generator to harness wave power.

Engineers at the University of Durham say they have built the UK’s largest linear electrical generator to harness wave power. It is one of the most advanced machines of its kind in the world, they claim.

’This is early, really practical research which puts Durham University at the forefront of the development of this technology to produce the next generation of renewable energy machines using wave power,’ said group leader Peter Tavner.

’After great success with wind turbines, the linear generator represents a huge step forward towards harnessing wave power to produce electricity in line with government policy on renewable energy,’ he said. A 2003 energy white paper stated the government’s aim to generate 10 per cent of UK electricity from renewable energy sources by 2010 (see Chemistry World, May 2004, p9).

The 4m-long, 1.5 tonne prototype can produce 30kW of electricity when its 24 large neodymium iron boron magnets move through a series of copper induction coils in response to a piston driven by wave motion.

The generator was designed and built with funding and technical support from the Centre of Excellence for New and Renewable Energy (NaREC) at Blyth in Northumberland.

’The linear test rig brings the technology a step closer to overcoming one of the key challenges facing the renewable energy industry - creation of a commercial wave power generator. NaREC is delighted to be working with the expert team at the University of Durham delivering real developments addressing current problems,’ said NaREC chief executive Doug Everard.

The plan is that, once the technology is up and running, wave power machines will convert wave motion through a large floating buoy attached to the vertical piston of a linear generator. Such machines would need to be positioned offshore in locations exposed to wide expanses of sea or ocean. With this in mind, the north-west coast of Scotland is considered to be the ideal area in the UK for wave generation, say developers.

’Starting from the initial funding grant awarded in September 2003 it has been a truly remarkable achievement to get to the stage of completing the test rig in such a short time,’ enthused Durham University’s Tavner.

’This really is leading edge research of the highest calibre and is a prime example of the university’s role in the region and working with local companies to develop new technologies,’ he said.

Bea Perks