Like the PowerBuoy, the WET-NZ is in a class of wave devices known as “point absorbers.” As the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management explains, “A point absorber is a floating structure with components that move relative to each other due to wave action (e.g., a floating buoy inside a fixed cylinder). The relative motion is used to drive electromechanical or hydraulic energy converters.”
Northwest Energy Innovations says one aspect of the WET-NZ that makes it special is the ability of its float to rotate continuously and also oscillate back and forth. This allows the device to extract energy from both types of motion, the company says, while also making it less likely to be “over-stressed at the extremes of motion – an issue that has caused other wave energy technologies to suffer hydraulic ram failures … because by design they have to restrict the float motion with end-stops.”
“The survivability of the WET-NZ is something we think of a key advantage,” Klure said in an interview. “Obviously you want to maximize power production, but if you don’t have survivability, you’re at zero.”
Versions of the device have been tested in New Zealand, but one of the partners in the project told the New Zealand Herald that the Oregon test is a key next step in bringing the device to market – though not the final step.
Industrial Research Ltd’s Gavin Mitchell “said the next step after this test would be to get further funding from the U.S. government to develop and trial a full-scale version of the device,” which would require bigger, more powerful waves in another part of the country, the paper reported. But Klure said that might have been a misinterpretation of Mitchell’s remarks.
“Our waves in Oregon are as big and good as anywhere,” he said. The question would be whether the Pacific Northwest has the facilities for a longer-term test of a full-scale, next-gen version of the WET-NZ, something that wave power backers hope will be addressed with the Pacific Marine Energy Center, a grid-connected test center in the planning stages.
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