All of us are aware of the high cost of energy these days, as well as the adverse ecological effects of using fossil fuels like petroleum and coal to run the coastal power plants that supply our electricity in Israel.
Since our power plants are located on or near our 200 km coastline, it would be great if someone could come up with an alternative fuel source that is not only economical but environmentally friendly as well. Sitting on the beach near my home in Israel’s central region, and seeing the tides come in, I have often wondered if something might be done to use the power of the ocean waves to make electricity. After all, many countries have been using water power to make electricity for years.
The idea of electricity being generated from the power of ocean tides and waves may be closer to being reality than previously believed up to now. Although harnessing the power of ocean waves has been thought about for years, no practical type of device has been made that is strong enough to withstand the battering received by the power of even normal sea surf as we have along our coastline.
One of the most promising ideas I’ve seen for turning waves into electric power has come from an Israeli inventor named Shmuel Ovadia. Ovadia has been involved in this project for nearly 20 years, and has already patented several devices for turning waves into electricity.
His idea involves the use of a series of large buoys that ride on top of the waves and are fitted with large, hydraulic “arms” that contract, or turn backwards, powering an alternator that makes electricity in a similar manner as a belt powered alternator does in a car
According to Ovadia, the process is completely free of pollution as no fuel is needed to create power as is the case in present electric power plants, whether they by powered by oil, coal, natural gas, or atomic power.
How does it work Q&A
Q. How does the wave interface portion adjust for tide level?
Our system has a hydraulic mechanism that lifts and lowers the buoys automatically, according to a tide level of up to 5 meters.
Q. How does the wave interface portion couple to hydraulics securely in a violent environment?
The method we offer is the best in the world and can withstand very high pressures. We have built 8 models in Jaffa port, near Tel Aviv, in sea environment of 8 meter waves.
Q. Would a tsunami destroy the installation? What about hurricane/cyclone storm surge?
In the event of a tsunami/hurricane/cyclone, the buoys are lifted automatically and placed on their back near the beach, until the storm is over.
Q. What kind of opposition will the visual element create? How much will this limit installations?
Our system is the only one in the world, in which the buoys are placed on the sea water level and they make only 10% of the whole complex. The rest 90% of the system – the generators, hydraulics and automation – is located on the beach in an approximate distance of 500 meters from sea front.
Q. How are you going to turn highly irregular wave action into a stable energy source?
We use hydro-pneumatic batteries, which regulate the circular movement. The important thing is to keep the movement of the generator regular.
The Power of the Sea
The power of tides in the world’s seas and oceans can be enough to provide between 10-20% of needed megawatts of electricity which will not only save on fuel costs, but be very beneficial to the world’s environment. Areas of particular interest are locations in Africa and Asia where this kind of power would be very beneficial to developing economies that have constant problems with electric power shortages
This is where people like Ovadia come in; and he hopes that his “wave power” devices will one day be providing electricity to countries which have plenty of wave power and little natural energy resources. Ovadia has patents for devices large enough to provide as much as 100 megawatts of power depending on the time of year and size of the waves. As ocean waves are usually stronger in both summer and winter, the devices, called “modulators”, would supply electricity at times when it is really needed to provide heating during winter months and air conditioning during hot summer months.
Ovadia wishes that his own country, Israel, would be more interested in this kind of system, as up to now electricity generated in Israel is still made from conventional power plants fueled by imported coal and oil. His revolutionary ideas, including ones dealing with new types of sea water desalination plants, are slow to be accepted in a country faced with chronic-to-acute energy and water problems.
There are some drawbacks in this type of system, though, as devices capable of producing tens of megawatts take up considerable sea area and may cause some damage to beaches, due to adverse currents generated by the hydraulic arms. But the question is, as Ovadia puts it, whether this is a worse problem than pollution caused by conventional power plants.
Despite any potential drawbacks, I truly believe that Shmuel Ovadia could very well be recognized one day as one of the world’s foremost pioneers of alternative energy solutions.