An Australian renewable energy company believes the key to effectively harnessing wave power could lie in the retrofitting of oil rig infrastructure.
Victoria-based AquaGen Technologies is convinced that wave power technology which can be attached to pre-existing sea-based infrastructure is the best means of exploiting the vast amount of potential energy harboured by the planet's turbulent seas.
The new technology developed by AquaGen is based on the concept of the oscillating wave surge converter, and in its basic principles does not diverge significantly from its predecessors in the same space.
Just like the generators developed by Carnegie Wave Energy in Western Australia, AquaGen's technology makes use of oscillating buoys which are shifted up and and down by the motion of the sea's waves to operate pumps which channel pressurized water through a pipeline. This pressurized water is then used to drive hydroelectric turbines for energy-generating purposes.
What sets AquaGen's new RigDrive technology apart from its peers, however, is that it can be retrofitted onto existing oil rigs, which provide the ideal support infrastructure for wave power facilities.
AquaGen's buoys are also situated on the surface of the water, unlike those of other systems which are placed underwater, and make use of proprietary "tension transfer elements" to facilitate the conversion of the energy of the waves into electricity.
The company's director, Martin Buden, said the technology can transform oil rigs from energy consumers into energy absorbers via exploitation of the natural elements which surround them. He added that the new concept provides an excellent means for transitioning from power generation which is dependent upon finite carbon-based resources to clean, renewable energy.
Buden points out that there are more than 400 floating oil rigs currently in operation around the world, which require huge amounts of energy to function effectively. The retrofitting of wave power technology could enable the rigs to significantly reduce their reliance on diesel fuels to meet their on-board electricity needs.
AquaGen CEO Nick Boyd believes the retrofitting of oil rigs could lead to a "new paradigm for wave energy," since it means a profit can be turned in the short-term via the use of existing subsea infrastructure, as opposed to wave farms which are capital intensive and require a much longer period of time to generate a return on investment.