New-wave energy

Anaconda, a wave-energy converter that mimics the action of a sea snake, is in the final stage of testing at Qinetiq’s facilities near Gosport.


Made almost entirely of rubber, each Anaconda is up to 200m long and capable of generating 1MW of power.


According to developer Checkmate Group, a field of 50 Anacondas could generate enough electricity to fuel 50,000 homes at a price that significantly undercuts similar clean-energy devices.


Checkmate’s chairman Paul Auston said: ‘The UK is known for its engineering excellence and politicians from all parties have been keen to challenge companies to come up with renewable-energy projects that can be sold around the world.


‘With Anaconda we have an invention that changes conventional thinking and it can help to meet government targets for cutting CO2 by providing renewable wave energy from our coastal waters.


‘It will also help cement the UK’s world-leading position in this technology.


‘We’ve seen excellent results in scale-model testing and we are now gearing up to attract the necessary investment to develop Anaconda and begin producing the first full-sized units for ocean testing within the next three years.’


The Anaconda is essentially a large water-filled distensible rubber tube anchored to the seabed and floating just beneath the sea surface at right angles to the waves.


As ocean waves pass over the tube, the water inside is continually squeezed to form bulges that travel down its length to drive a turbine in the tail.


The electricity created is then captured and cabled ashore.


The original idea was developed by Prof Rod Rainey, a chief engineer with engineering design consultant Atkins.


He said: ‘The beauty of wave energy is its consistency.


‘However, the problem holding back wave-energy machines is they tend to deteriorate over time in the harsh marine-environment.


‘Anaconda is non mechanical: it is mainly rubber, a natural material with a natural resilience and so it has very few moving parts to maintain.’


The first field of Anacondas could be in commercial production by 2014.


This could aid the government’s target to source 20 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020.


Its developers are also hopeful that the device will be exported for use in coasts in the US, South Africa, Australia, Japan and New Zealand.