Thursday, September 25, 2008

Portugal Steps Up To The Plate

Wave snakes approximately 459’ long and 11.5’ in diameter have been spotted just recently off the coast of Portugal. They are red in color and; from a distance; they can be easily lost in the turbulence of the Atlantic Ocean. What are they? Another escapee from a lab somewhere? Giant underwater monsters heading to the surface for sunbathing or some more nefarious reason? Hardly!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008, was the first time these wave snakes, as they are being called, were seen. But instead of causing fear and hysteria, their sighting is being heralded as a world’s first in the hunt for clean energy. Actually, these red snake-like devices were inaugurated as part of world’s first commercial-scale wave-power station located three miles from the coast of the northern Portuguese town Aguçadoura.

These wave snakes have been 10 years in the making by an Edinburgh-based company named Pelamis Wave Power. At the heart of the Aguçadoura power station are the three cylindrical wave energy converters which move up and down on the endless supply of waves. The open sea is never calm; so, there will never be any “down” time. This plant then converts the motion into electricity, without emitting any of the carbon dioxide responsible for warming the planet.

"The future of wave energy starts today," said Manuel Pinho, Portugal's economics minister. "Finland is very good in mobile phones; Portugal wants to be good in renewable energy. We are among the top five in the world; and, we are just in the beginning of the process.”

Pinho went on to add, "Renewable energy is the source of energy for the future and we think this can create an industrial revolution and a lot of opportunities for jobs and research and we want to be ahead of the curve."

At peak out, with the three wave machines they have now, the plant near Aguçadoura will be able to general enough (2.25 MW) to supply the annual needs of about 1,500 family homes. Eventually, the station will be expanded to include another 25 machines for a total of 28. With that many machines it will be able to generate up to 21MW of power. This will save 60,000 tons of CO2 from entering our atmosphere compared to a fossil fuel plant.

"If you compare it to wind energy, wave is more predictable and is more sustained typically," said Ian Sharp of Babcock and Brown, the company that built and commissioned the Aguçadoura wave farm.

Each device is 142m (459’) long, has a diameter of 3.5m (11.5’) and is made from 700 tons of carbon steel. Each wave converter is composed of four articulated sections that move up and down independently as the waves pass along it. At each of the hinges between the sections, hydraulic rams use the wave motion to drive generators to produce up to 750KW of power at peak output.

The electricity generated will be carried by undersea cable to a substation in Aguçadoura, which will then feed the power into the Portuguese national grid.

The Portuguese are really taking the lead in renewable technologies. Besides, this flagship wave-power project, they are investing heavily in other technologies. They are already spending £250m ($500m) on more than 2,500 solar photovoltaic panels to build the world's largest solar farm. This solar farm in eastern Portugal near the small town of Moura will supply 45MW of electricity each year, enough to power 30,000 homes.

In the past three years, the country has also trebled its hydroelectric capacity and quadrupled its wind power sources – northern Portugal has the world's biggest wind farm with more than 130 turbines and a factory that builds the 40m-long blades.

Pinho wants Portugal to rival Denmark or Japan in its commitment to developing renewables industries – he predicts his country will generate 31% of all its power from clean sources by 2020. The target means increasing the generation of electricity from renewable sources from 20% in 2005 to 60% in 2020. My prayers are with you Portugal!!

1 comment:

kathi said...

Portugal rules!!!! (They actually did, once upon a time, if I remember world history & No. Am. exploration! :)