Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

Wave Power Switched On

Another step in a Sisyphean effort to extract useful energy from the ocean.

  • December 1, 2009

The First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, recently switched on a machine for converting wave energy into electricity. The machine, called the Oyster, is simple: it’s a hinged contraption with one end that rises and falls with the waves, an action that pumps water to an onshore hydro-electric turbine. There are no electronics or generators in the water, which should make it easier to maintain.

Yet, we’ve got a long way to go before wave power makes any sort of dent in our need for fossil fuels. At two megawatts of power per Oyster, it would take about 400 of them to replace a coal plant, assuming the wave power is as reliable as a coal plant–that’s yet to be proven.

Another recent wave project didn’t fair too well. The snake-like Pelamis system was installed off of Portugal last year, only to be discontinued after economic and technical difficulties (the latter of which the company says have been addressed).

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

You've read of free articles this month.