Wave Energy Technology Becoming a Reality at Florida Institute of Technology

——————–By Ocean Engineering student Billy Wells and Dr. Stephen Wood – A group of students from Florida Tech’s ocean engineering program are designing a revolutionary, environmentally friendly ocean wave energy system for home and commercial use. The ultimate goal of this research and design project is to develop an ocean wave energy system for harvesting near shore wave energy for domestic and commercial use. Years’ worth of work has gone into the project, and this summer will brought testing off the Florida coast near Fort Pierce.

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The amount of energy available from hydrokinetics is staggering. Some reports estimate that ocean wave energy could replace 20-30 coal fired power plants in the next 40 years, provided the right technologies are developed. Studies done by Electric Power Research Institute estimate the energy potential from waves may be up to 100 gigawatts, yet this energy goes un-harvested. By 2050 it’s possible that over 67 million homes could be powered by wave energy. (1)

The Florida Tech Ocean Engineering wave energy team is working on power take off units for two different types of wave harvesting devices. “Our biggest challenge is designing and building a system that works in a variety of environments. For every type and location of coastline, there is a specific sort of wave energy system that is optimal for generating electricity”, says team leader Billy Wells. Previous students have developed structural designs for two different types of wave energy systems that would be optimal for deployment on coastal areas similar to Florida. The two systems are designed to work at different depths and capture energy from three different spatial areas of ocean waves.

The team is as internationally diverse as the coastlines being studied. Students from various countries, including Bolivia, Germany, Pakistan, and Trinidad, bring together a collective passion for the ocean and renewable energy. The group consists of both graduate and undergraduate students, ranging in age from 21 to 31. “The diversity our group brings to the table far exceeds any other project or experiences I’ve worked on”, says team member Patrick Maloney. “The variations in analytical problem solving skills and technical expertise definitely make our team more effective and versatile”.

The students after finalizing their designs constructed the prototypes and deployed all three systems mid-June 2012 off the coast of central Florida, near Ft. Pierce Inlet. The wave energy team is seeking partnerships with interested members of industry. An open solicitation request for funding is being made public to interested parties and organizations to continue this research. More information on specifics of the project as well as general questions can be directed to Billy Wells at bwells@my.fit.edu, or Dr. Stephen Wood, Ocean Engineering Department Head at swood@my.fit.edu.

Prototype 1 deployment test June 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xac8Wmjjoo&feature=relmfu

Prototype 1 action by the seas shown in the deployment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DnBlJm-VnQ&feature=relmfu

Sources: 1)http://moneymorning.com/2012/02/29/hydrokinetic-power-is-the-next-wave-in-cheap-energy/  “Hydrokinetic power is the next wave in cheap energy”, Keith Fitz-Gerald. Published 29 February 2012.

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