October 1, 2005

A new wave energy device

A wave energy device known as the "Manchester Bobber" utilizes the rise and fall of the water surface, which feeds a generator and produces electricity.

The plan is to have a series of Bobbers working together to generate electricity, said researchers at the University of Manchester and the University of Manchester Intellectual Property Limited (UMIP), who are partnering with Mowlem plc and Royal Haskoning. One area they are looking at developing is using decommissioned offshore rigs as platforms for the devices.

"Offshore wave energy represents a substantial concentrated 'green' energy source for an island state like the U.K.," said Peter Stansby, co-inventor of the Manchester Bobber and professor of Hydrodynamics at The University of Manchester.

"Energy from the sea may be extracted in many ways, and harnessing the energy from the bobbing motion of the sea is not a new idea. It is the hydrodynamics of the float employed by the Manchester Bobber that provides the vital connection to generating electricity," he said.

Device features include:

• Vulnerable mechanical and electrical components housed in a protected environment well above sea level, which makes for ease of accessibility.

• All mechanical and electrical components readily available, resulting in high reliability compared to other devices, with a large number of more sophisticated components.

• The Manchester Bobber will respond to waves from any direction without requiring adjustment.

• The ability to maintain and repair specific Bobber generators (independent of others in a linked group) means generation supply to the network can continue uninterrupted.

Phase One of the project (testing of 1/100th scale working model) successfully wrapped up in January. Phase Two, which is commencing now, involves a 1/10th scale device researchers will test at NaREC over a two-week period. Mowlem plc and Royal Haskoning are also developing and costing conceptual designs for a full-scale platform. Phase Three will involve a full-scale prototype built and tested in parallel with detailed costings and engineering design for the optimum full scale concept from Phase Two.