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Miss Alison Crawford
Anaconda wave energy converter in final concept testing - 6 May 2009
The Atkins' inspired Anaconda wave energy device is delivering results in testing that suggest it could produce electricity at a cost that would easily rival any other renewable energy product.
Anaconda is a 200 metre long rubber tube that works on bulge wave theory - first documented by medical experts who looked at how blood was pumped around the human body. The blood pulses - with bulge waves rippling along every vein and artery. These pulses carry energy and it is the same basic idea behind Anaconda.
Each device would be anchored offshore in water around 50 metres deep, sitting just below the water surface, head to the waves. The action of the passing waves would cause bulges to pulse down the inside of the tube - transferring energy from the passing water to the device. This energy travels down the tube and via high and low pressure chambers it powers a generator. The resulting electricity would then be cabled ashore.
It is now in final proof of concept testing at a 270 metre long wave tank in Gosport, Hampshire where it is showing impressive results. This news is a real boost to Professor Rod Rainey from Atkins, who came up with the original idea.
Professor Rainey said: "The testing is extremely important because Anaconda is so radical it wasn't entirely clear that it would actually work. However the results completely bear out the theory and scaling it up also shouldn't be a problem."
Prof Rainey has been involved with the wave energy sector for ten years. He'd seen projects work well in testing but when it came to scaling up they often suffered because the harsh environment they'd be working in raised serious maintenance questions.
"I realised that making wave energy machines from rigid materials was always going to cause problems. The industry needed a much more radical solution to make the breakthrough to a commercial product. To me the obvious jump had to be to a rubber bodied device - the idea had been looked at before but not in the way I subsequently came up with."
The device is being developed by double Queen's Award winners, the Checkmate Group, who is also being backed by the Carbon Trust.
Chairman, of Checkmate Seaenergy, Paul Auston, said: "Subsidies for wave energy projects are getting very attractive - making more devices look commercially practical. However that is not our ambition - we want to get Anaconda to the stage where it makes economic sense with zero subsidy. So far in testing the results have been impressive - with energy output data suggesting Anaconda will produce electricity at a cost that will be excitingly low - and offer a serious and cost effective alternative in the delivery of clean energy. The first full-sized units should be in production within three years."
It seems Anaconda's emergence in the world of wave energy is hitting a peak at exactly the right time. Only last week Minister for Sustainable Development, Lord Hunt, told an clean energy conference that English and Welsh coastal waters would be investigated for their marine renewable energy potential.
Lord Hunt told the conference: "The marine energy sector has reached a pivotal stage with more and more devices ready to go into the water. The screening exercise in English and Welsh waters is a significant step forward in our plans to harness the power of our seas and secure a renewable and low carbon energy supply."