Hurricane Katrina whipped up huge, powerful waves that caused severe destruction in 2005 along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Their size and strength convinced Phil Kithil of Santa Fe, New Mexico, there had to be a way to harness that energy.
His first thought was a device that would use wave action to pump deep, cold seawater to the surface to dampen the intensity of hurricanes, which thrive on warm water. He proved the concept with a simple tube and one-way valve attached to a buoy, but the idea had no commercial potential as hurricanes are unpredictable.
He thought of a second use because the wave-action pump also brought to the surface concentrated ocean nutrients such as phosphate and silicate that promote the growth of phytoplankton. “Phytoplankton take in carbon dioxide to metabolize nutrients and give off oxygen,” Kithil said. “We felt the pumps had a role to play in climate change mitigation.”
But, again, the business potential evaporated when governments participating in the 2009 United Nations Copenhagen Climate conference did not take action that would open carbon markets for the device.
The third idea was the charm. Kithil and his company, Atmocean Inc., founded in 2006, partnered with the Albuquerque engineering firm Reytek Corp. in 2010 to produce a pump system that uses wave power to send pressurized seawater onto shore where it is desalinated without the use of external energy. Kithil said the system has a simple design and can be set up cheaply and in rural settings to provide fresh water for drinking and farming in coastal cities.
Working with scientists at Sandia National Laboratories through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance program, the two companies have tested and advanced the technology and moved it close to market by attracting significant investment. Atmocean recently signed a fourth NMSBA agreement. Small businesses can apply for help through the program once a year. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without Sandia’s help,” said Chris White, Atmocean’s chief operating officer. “It provided us with the backbone of validating our technical improvements so we could go forward.”
Small business program lends a hand with research and development
NMSBA is a public-private partnership among Sandia Labs, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the state of New Mexico that lets small business owners who have a technical challenge work with scientists and engineers at the national labs. Created in 2000 by the state Legislature, the program brings world-class technology and expertise to small companies and promotes economic development with an emphasis on rural areas. NMSBA has provided 2,648 small businesses in all 33 of the state’s counties with more than $53.3 million worth of research hours and materials.
“Many small companies don’t have the resources to do advanced research and development. NMSBA is a great way to give them an R&D hand,” said Jackie Kerby Moore, manager of Technology and Economic Development at Sandia Labs. “National laboratory expertise helps these people realize their dreams and build their businesses, a win-win for the economy.”
Kithil and Phillip Fullam, chief engineer of Reytek, first worked with Sandia Labs’ Rick Givler, a specialist in modeling physical systems, to assess the feasibility of their near-shore wave energy system. Givler proved that, using typical waves and a set number of seawater pumps, considerable pressurized water would reach an onshore reverse osmosis water purification system.
“We needed to know if we would get a dribble at the end or a gusher of pressurized water,” Kithil said. “Rick came up with the answer — a gusher. If it was a dribble we’d have no business. With a gusher we could estimate expenses and profit. That’s how important the Sandia research was. We could take an interesting idea to business feasibility.”
Sandia Labs’ findings have helped Atmocean attract about $3.5 million in investment to continue product testing, add staff and boost component manufacturing at Reytek. The company built full-size seawater pumps and tested the system off the coast of Oregon in 2011 and off Peru for six months in 2015. “The first Peru tests were a big success,” Kithil said. “Other small communities want to see if it will work for them.”
System to be deployed off Newfoundland for operational testing
Atmocean is working now with Sandia Labs engineer Tim Koehler on computational modeling of the wave energy system. Following trials in a test tank at the Texas A&M University Haynes Laboratory, the system will be deployed later in the year off the coast of Newfoundland for a third round of testing that will demonstrate the prototype in an operational environment.
Atmocean’s system is a 200-foot by 200-foot array of pumps floating on the ocean. “Each pump is a buoy on a piston,” Koehler said. “As a wave passes, the buoy ingests sea water, and as the buoy settles, it pumps seawater through hydraulic lines back to shore where it enters the zero-electricity desalination process.”
Water arrives onshore at about 180 psi, or pounds per square inch of pressure. Atmocean uses energy recovery devices — essentially spinning mechanical wheels — to boost 14 percent of the arriving seawater to 900 psi, the pressure needed to run reverse osmosis. The system is the size of a shipping container and is manufactured by Atmocean industry partners. “We supply the pressurized seawater and we work with standard industry-proven technologies on the desalination,” White said.
The system runs 24/7 and production depends on wave action. White said that in southern Peru, in typical ocean conditions, 50 million cubic feet of pressurized water is pushed to shore in a year. Fourteen percent of that is desalinated, producing 5 million cubic feet of fresh water annually that can be used for agriculture or consumption.
Kithil said the system is inexpensive to operate, offers local employment and helps the environment. “Each array of pumps creates a defacto marine protected area with artificial structures that see marine growth,” he said. “The system uses small boats operated by local fishermen who get consistent work. During our full-scale pilots in Peru in 2015, we saw a huge outpouring of support from the local fishing community.”
Ocean forces on buoys
Kithil and Fullam are working with Koehler to improve the pump design. “They want to know what forces the ocean, through the passage of waves, puts on the buoys, so they can optimize their performance and be as efficient as possible,” Koehler said. He is using computational fluid dynamics modeling to evaluate various buoy designs engineered by Reytek and narrowed down through wave pool tests. “I will give them an idea of ocean forces on various pump designs,” he said.
Koehler’s first foray into NMSBA has been eye-opening, he said. “It’s a different application than what I typically work on and uses different software, so it adds some breadth to my experience,” he says. “It’s been a good process in terms of my personal and professional growth. I’m learning more, and it’s nice to help a small business. I like the idea. It’s a good way to help rural communities with clean energy technology.”
After the final demonstration in Newfoundland, Atmocean, which presented the technology at the 2016 United Nations Solutions Summit, will seek a commercial partner. “If all goes well, we’re looking at a year-and-a-half after the tests to reach commercialization,” White said.
The Latest on: Wave energy system
- Urbandale Family in Need “Feels the Love” With Free HVAC System on October 6, 2018 at 1:17 pm
URBANDALE Iowa — The energy costs ... Both felt a wave of relief when they found out they had been nominated, and selected, to receive a completely free HVAC system. “When Corissa called ... […]
- Carnegie Energy's Albany wave farm to get $2.6m from WA Government despite viability concerns on October 5, 2018 at 3:10 am
Considered Australia's leading wave energy developer, Carnegie has been rocked by the ... to make sure that the rip-offs and the rorts that sometimes occurred in the system of the path are getting sta... […]
- “Faster Than Speed of Light Illusion” –Strange Star System Emitting Gamma Rays from an Exotic Milky Way Object on October 3, 2018 at 5:16 pm
When particles strike the water, they produce a shock wave of blue light called ... This is a new mechanism for generating high-energy gamma rays in this type of system and is different than ... […]
- Berger: Could Puerto Rico be a model for energy independence? on October 1, 2018 at 1:19 pm
Despite evolving consumer preferences, utility companies are resisting this wave of progress that ... 9,000 residential rooftop solar systems in Puerto Rico, making us the second largest provider of r... […]
- 1918: How the Allies Surfed to Victory on a Wave of Oil on October 1, 2018 at 2:11 am
Thus it can also be said that the victory of the Entente against the Central Powers was a victory of the economic system, and particularly the industry ... that “the allied cause floated to victory up... […]
- Jupiter takes an annual pummelling from the Solar System on September 28, 2018 at 3:56 am
To determine whether this system serves the same function in octopuses and humans ... small space without reflecting them — a technique that could make harvesting wave energy more efficient. Structure... […]
- Children design sustainable railway system for Southsea on September 27, 2018 at 10:04 pm
PRIMARY school children have been taking part in technology challenge days to create a sustainable transport system for the city ... With names such as Dragon Star, Wave Flash and Dancing Dolphin, the ... […]
- Election 2018: Clean Energy’s Future Could Rise or Fall with 36 Governor’s Races on September 27, 2018 at 1:48 am
Some of the most consequential elections for climate policy this fall could be the 36 governors races, where a blue wave could position clean energy advocates ... cap-and-trade system known ... […]
- D-Wave Systems Publishes Quantum Computer Study on September 24, 2018 at 8:18 am
D-Wave is a developer of quantum systems and software, and a supplier of quantum computers. Smallest amount into which the energy of a wave can be divided. The quantum is proportional to the frequency ... […]
- A control system to improve the efficiency of wave energy converters on September 18, 2018 at 6:49 am
Interest in wave energy has been growing in recent years, and electric generators specially designed to generate electricity from this renewable energy source are being developed. The UPV/EHU's Advanc... […]
via Google News and Bing News