Powering the buoys

SRI International is testing a prototype buoy-mounted, ocean wave-powered generator off the coast of Florida.

Silicon Valley-based SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research and development organisation, is testing a prototype buoy-mounted, ocean wave-powered generator off the coast of Florida in the Tampa Bay.

The deployment is part of a program sponsored by Hyper Drive Corporation, a Japanese company focused on development and deployment of wave-powered generators around the world.

SRI’s wave-powered generators can be deployed on existing ocean buoys that currently use batteries as their energy source. That’s due to the fact that SRI’s new generator uses patented an electroactive polymer artificial muscle (EPAM) that has been employed to continually power the buoys.

SRI is working with Artificial Muscle, an SRI spin-off company and the exclusive licensee of EPAM, in the development of the EPAM components for the wave-powered generators.

‘In this first application of EPAM to wave-power generation, we are able to demonstrate the feasibility of a new, low-cost, and highly efficient technology that can harvest electricity directly from ocean waves,’ said Philip von Guggenberg, Director of Business Development, SRI International. ‘This approach is an important first step in harnessing the vast amounts of energy stored in the ocean.’

The generator, initially deployed on a navigation buoy for ports and harbours, is capable of generating 20 joules of energy per stroke, which corresponds to an average output power of more than 5W under typical ocean wave conditions.

The current development program aims at developing generators that can produce 25W of average output power. This is sufficient to supply all the power required by navigational buoys.

Future efforts will address the design, development, and deployment of wave-powered generators capable of generating power in the kilowatts range for large-scale clean energy production.