December 1, 2008 The world’s first commercial wave farm in Portugal is now operational. Three 750kW Pelamis Wave Energy Converters (PWEC) have been installed in the first stage of a project which, when complete, will provide enough clean energy to meet the needs of 15,000 households.
Babcock & Brown, Energias de Portugal, Efacec and Pelamis have invested around €9 million in the project thus far and hope to see wave power become a commercially viable alternative energy source. The Aguçadoura site is the first of a series of projects aimed at developing of a Portuguese wave energy cluster and increasing awareness of wave-generated energy.
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Antonino Lo Bianco, European Head of Infrastructure at Babcock and Brown, believes that wave power offers huge potential for countries worldwide to harness an inexhaustible supply of wave energy to produce a clean, zero carbon energy domestically. According to the British Wind Energy Association, wave power has the potential to displace 1-2 billion tons of CO2 emissions per year from conventional fossil fuel generating sources. “We expect wave power to become a widespread renewable energy technology and look forward to the benefits that investing at this early stage will bring,” Lo Bianco said.
The wave farm is currently generating its power using three Pelamis Wave Energy Converters (PWEC) located approximately three miles off the coast. The PWEC are semi-submerged, articulated structures composed of cylindrical sections linked by hinged joints. The wave-induced motion of these joints is resisted by hydraulic rams, which pump high-pressure fluid through hydraulic motors via smoothing accumulators. The hydraulic motors drive electrical generators to produce electricity. Power from all the joints is fed down a single umbilical cable to a junction on the sea bed. Several devices can be connected together and linked to shore through a single seabed cable.
The next phase of the Aguçadoura project will see the installation of a further 25 PWEC machines, each rated at 750kW and able to meet the annual electricity demand of approximately 500 homes, bringing the output capacity up to 21MW.
Once complete the project is expected to meet the average annual electricity demand of more than 15,000 Portuguese households whilst eliminating more than 60,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions from conventional power plants.
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