Tag Archives: wave power

On #WorldOceansDay, revisiting one of my favourite places to wave-watch: a broken wave power plant

Anyone who has ever read my blog, seen my Instagram, or met me in person knows: The ocean is hugely important for me. The ocean is important for my mental health, looking at water just makes me happy and calm and content. The ocean is also the foundation of life on this planet: It supplies more than half the oxygen we breathe, it moderates temperatures such that I am happy to go swimming in Kiel fjord all year round (ok, that’s also because I am slightly insane), it provides us with food, work, goods.

Today, on World Oceans Day, let’s celebrate the ocean by looking at one specific aspect in which it is amazing, and that is in how much energy it contains. In heat that is stored in it. In dissolved salts. In its movement. You know I am addicted to wave watching, but there is so much more you can do with waves than just watch them, even though that’s not as easy at it seems.

One of my favourite wave watching spots is a broken prototype of a wave power plant close to my friend Elin’s cabin on an island off Bergen. The location was chosen for the enormous wave power that slams up on the coast here most days, and that’s also why the prototype unfortunately didn’t last very long.

In the movie below you see the spot where a turbine used to sit which would be powered by water pressing air up by being funneled into a sub-sea reservoir, and then sucking air back out when the wave retreats. And you see how, by the way the funnel is built, the not-so-enormous waves outside get translated into quite a change inside that hole. Wait for the splash! Can you imagine the movement of the air column above, where the turbine used to sit?

We weren’t even there on a particularly wavy day, so imagine the powers at work here on days with a lot of waves! The forces at work here are enormous. And just because we haven’t figured out yet how to make wave power work well in the ocean’s harsh environment, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t figureoutable!

Picture by Elsa du Plessis, used with permission

Even looking at these pictures and the movie I feel the effect the ocean has to me — giving me a sense of calm purpose and inspiration. Enjoy your World Ocean Day, and make sure to appreciate some water somewhere today! :-)

Visiting the ruins of a wave power plant — waves running up a funnel to fill a reservoir

Using wave energy to generate electricity sounds very attractive, after all there are tons of waves and all they do (in addition to looking pretty) is eroding coast lines. But that’s exactly the problem: There is a lot of energy in waves, so wave power plants have to be extremely tough.

Here is another post about the ruins of the wave power plant I visited on Toftøy. For an idea on the size of the waves on this not-very-windy day with fairly moderate waves, check out the movie at the end of this post (there are two people that you might be able to spot on the rocks on the other side, and those pillars used to carry a bridge). 

Below you see the waves entering a funnel that will lead them slightly uphill…

…so the water can fill up reservoir which is located higher than sea level…

…in order to drive turbines when the reservoir is emptied out again into the sea.

You already see the huge amount of energy stored in those waves, and looking at how little is left of the power plant, it’s definitely safer to stay well clear of those waves!

Check out in the movie below what it looks like when waves enter this power plant (and pay attention to the two people on the rock on the other side — they clearly didn’t expect that much energy in the waves! :-D)

Visiting the ruins of a wave power plant — waves driving a turbine

After posting about how longer fetch leads to higher waves yesterday, here is why I was in that exact spot in the first place: To visit an old wave power plant on Toftøyna! The power plant was built in the 80s but destroyed only a couple of years after it had been built, so all there is to see now are some pretty exciting ruins!

Below, you see a cylinder that is a couple of meters high and some meters across, and that connects the air above the water with the water below. There used to be a turbine sitting at the top of that cylinder that used to be driven by the air column moved by waves at the base of the cylinder. The turbine is long gone, but what still happens is waves putting the water inside the cylinder into motion. And that looks pretty impressive as you see in the movie below!

Looking at those fountains shooting out of the cylinder, it’s not difficult to imagine what enormous kinds of forces the turbine had to endure before it got destroyed. Super impressive!

But what’s similarly impressive to me is how there are tiny flowers growing in this harsh environment. I guess it’s true: “life, eh, finds a way” :D

Same wind, different waves, or: the influence of fetch length on the size of waves

I just found this picture that I took back in May near my friend Elin’s cabin on an island in western Norway, and it’s a really nice illustration of how the same wind will cause very different waves depending on whether it’s blowing over the sea for many kilometres, or over a puddle for only a couple of centimetres.