With the need for cheap renewable energy it’s important that every possible source of energy is exploited. Currently Solar and Wind are getting the most attention, the reason being that both these technologies are mature and easy to construct and maintain.
Ocean generators have been largely ignored due to the expensive setup costs. There are however some really impressive ocean technologies available at the moment, projects like CETO, PowerBuoy, Pelamis to name but a few, all producing impressive results. This proves the viability of ocean generators.
The design I propose is probably not the most elegant of solutions but it’s not meant to be. If the technologies mentioned above are the Rolls-Royce of ocean generation, this design would probably be the Fiat Punto. It’s got less features but still gets the job done at a lower cost.
The concept works as follows. First we need to construct a couple of cheap floats. Fiberglass floats are recommended but this might be too expensive. By using recycled material the costs may be reduced. This can be done by collecting plastic milk containers, tying them together at the handles and using fishing net to secure the whole lot.
The generator comes next, again simple as possible. Start by connecting bicycle sprockets to a shaft. A standard bicycle chain is then connected to the sprocket. One end of the chain is connected to the rope leading to the ocean while the other is connected to a counter weight. The counter ensures that after each pull of a wave the chain returns to a resting position, ready for the next wave pull. This setup will stay on the shore.
The next step is to connect the float to the bicycle chain and sprocket. The idea is that the up and down motion of the waves will drive the bicycle sprocket. The sprocket will then turn the shaft connected to the alternator. This is done as follows:
Attach a fishing rope or cable to an anchor.
Attach this rope to a pulley close to the surface of the ocean. Another rope is then attached to the float and guided through the pulley and redirected to the shore. At the shore another couple of pulleys are used to attach the rope to the bicycle chain - and voila! A generator is born. See prototype for more examples.
I have a couple of improvements on this design as well. First, the one anchor per float has a problem because it allows for drift which might allow the float to tangle with other floats. To solve this, a honeycomb deployment is suggested. This diagram below shows the concept. Each anchor has a couple of ropes and pulleys attached. Each float in turn is then connected to a few anchors at a time. This stops drift and lessens the force each pulley has to carry at any given time allowing for a more robust setup.
The maintenance of the setup is simple as well. Floats are easy of course. If they start to degrade simply replace them with new ones. If the ropes start to degrade, attach a fresh one to the end of the old one and simply reel the new one through. If the pulleys start to degrade, grab the rope connected to the anchor and raise the pulley above water. Replace it and drop it down again.
As you can see no divers are required and very little technical or mechanical knowledge, making it ideal for rural communities. Most importantly it’s cheap.
Now obviously no system is perfect. There are some risks that need to be investigated further.
To summarise, the setup might not be the most elegant solution but it is far more practical for the general populace. It creates electricity in a country where it’s badly needed without delay. It’s a green renewable source that’s a real boost to the environment. Since burning solid fuel is still the main source of heat in these areas it will have a major impact on living standards. It fights poverty since any excess energy can be sold, either to the local community or to the national grid. But above all this it addresses the main aspect of a social business - It helps people to help themselves. This is not a charity. At the end these communities will be self sustainable; giving the power back to the people.