Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

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).

Cut off? Read unlimited articles today.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
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 the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.