Commercially viable wave power generation may soon become six times more efficient, thanks to a new wave energy converter designed by the University of Manchester (UoM), a British public research institution, in collaboration with a Mexican scientist.

Efraín Carpintero Moreno, an associate researcher at UoM, told the news agency of Conacyt, the National Council for Science and Technology, that the converter is a floating device that can efficiently harness the energy in waves to generate electricity.

Carpintero acknowledged that one of the major setbacks for wave power has been the low profitability of existing devices, which are expensive and have a low yield when compared with fossil fuel-generated power.

But Carpintero’s device, developed under the tutelage of UoM professor Peter Stansby, is more efficient and can therefore generate more electricity.

“Our prototype utilizes three oscillation modes to harness the energetic potential contained in sea waves . . .” said Carpintero. “At sea, there are six different types of oscillation, three lineal and three angular. We’re exploiting three of these movements, while other devices usually do so with one.”

“Reliable data regarding the efficiency of existing prototypes is hard to come by,” he continued, “because of intellectual property restrictions. The current consensus in the literature is that wave energy converters have an efficiency of between 7 and 12%.”

“The peak efficiency of our device is 45%, between four and six times more than conventional options.”

The total output highly depends on the intensity of wave surges in any given location. A study that assessed the feasibility of wave generation on the coast of Baja California at Ensenada found that the frequency of waves during the winter was between 10 and 12 seconds, and eight to 10 during the summer.

Winter waves in the area reached a height of 1.5 to four meters; in the summer they were half a meter to 1.5 meters.

A prototype device designed for such optimal characteristics, explained Carpintero, could generate, on average, between one and two megawatts, enough to fulfill the power needs of 100,000 typical households.

With that yield, the device becomes profitable as power generation costs per kilowatt hour would be between two and five pesos, similar to the unsubsidized cost of fossil fuel-generated power.

The estimated cost of his system, said the Mexican scientist, would be about US $1.42 million, similar to the cost of some wind farms.

Carpintero’s project is being assessed and may be further developed and researched by the Center for Scientific Investigation and Higher Education of Ensenada (CICESE).

Read more: Wave power system 6 times more efficient