Tag Archives: wave power

#BergenWaveWatching: Ruins of a wave power plant

Reposted from Elin’s blog:

Kjersti, Steffi, Elin and myself (Mirjam) recently discussed ways to better integrate the GEOF105 student cruise into the course. My suggestion was to ask the students to observe things throughout the whole duration of the course, and then have them relate their time series with what they observe when “at sea”. In this mini series tagged #BergenWaveWatching, I write up a couple of suggestions I have for observations that are easy and fun to make. I am anticipating that my suggestions will be strongly biased towards #wavewatching, so if you have any other suggestions, I am all ears! :-)

Where to go

Bølgekraftverket in Øygården

When to go

Until recently I would have said that it doesn’t really matter when you are going, because whenever I had been there I got to see things like this:

But then I went there and there were absolutely no waves to be seen, which I think was a combination of a calm day with hardly any wind, no swell coming in either, and very low water levels, possibly tides and in general. So I would recommend going there when there is wind and also the water levels aren’t super low so any potential waves actually have the chance to make it into the area of the wave power plant.

Unusually calm day at the wave power plant. See the pillars that used to carry a bridge across here?

A one-off visit on a wavy day should give you plenty of things to discover and think about, but you might get addicted and come back again ;-)

What to look out for

There are at least two parts of the wave power plant where you can clearly recognize how they were supposed to work when they were still in operation. A wave power plant where waves used to drive a turbine, and another one where waves run up a funnel to fill a reservoir. But in general it’s a pretty awesome wave watching spots with some rocks that are usually just below or at water level, steep cliffs, areas that are exposed to the open ocean while others are sheltered from the waves and wind. So much to explore!

What to do with the data

“Data” here means your pics and movies of the waves.

I find it super interesting to just describe the observations of the waves around the island and wave power plant, and it might keep you busy for a while (see for example the two blog posts I linked to in the paragraph above). But you could of course also look into wave conditions in this spot. What does the wave forecast say for the day you are visiting? How do the wave conditions on that day compare to the average conditions? Or the day when the power plant got destroyed? Or the most recent extreme events? How often do extreme events occur? And what conditions actually make an event “extreme” in this place?

How this is relevant for the student cruise

Understanding waves and their enormous forces is relevant for anyone who wants to work with ocean observations or any kind of structures in the ocean. This is the ideal spot to become aware of how fragile any human structure is when confronted with the forces of nature. Also looking at wave fields more closely, both in observations and in models, is a great way to connect to what’s really going on in the ocean.

Do you have suggestions for us? What other spots or topics would you recommend in and around Bergen to be added to the #BergenWaveWatching list? Please leave a comment! We are always looking to expand this list!

Visiting a wave power plant on a no-waves day

You might remember earlier posts on a wave power plant I love to visit in Øygården, where it almost always looks like in the movie below (That movie is part of this blog post, but I also have a blog post on the wave power plant where waves used to drive a turbine or the one where waves run up a funnel to fill a reservoir).

Anyway, when I went there a couple of days ago, things were different. And while I still love visiting ruins of industrial buildings, especially in great weather, the water was … flat.

As in “flat as a mirror”. Below, you see the pillars that a bridge used to rest upon when the power plant was still in operation. And I have never been able to get this close to the funnel, whenever I have been here before, there were waves splashing everywhere and I wouldn’t have dared to go anywhere near that area.

Below you see the funnel that waves usually run up in and splash spectacularly. On the day we were there, we could walk up all the way to the funnel and even look down into it. See how the floor isn’t even wet in some places close to the funnel? The largest waves we saw were the size of the one below, just barely making it up into the mirror-like pond you saw in the picture above.

But luckily there is interesting stuff to watch there even when there are no waves, for example this happy fishy which just looks so content enjoying the view from the top of the cliff.

Or corroded steel rope. Did you know there is just ordinary rope in the middle? I did not. And how interesting that that middle bit is all that is left of the steel rope in places!

And also I always enjoy seeing different wave fields on bodies of water that are located close to each other, like here where the upper reservoir is sheltered from the wind whereas the lower isn’t.

So a nice trip all in all, just not quite the wave watching I had been hoping for! But I will be back! :-)

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.