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Wave Energy Conversion Project

Wave Energy Conversion is a 4th year MEng project aims to:
  • Test the previous year’s rack and pinion Wave Energy Converter (WEC) devDesign and implement improvements to this model
  • Quantify the improvements in terms of potential for electricity generation
  • Devise a plan for real-world implementation
The full scale device would be arranged in wave farms, converting wave power into electrical power supplied to the grid.


The Carbon Trust has estimated that:-

The total revenue from global wave and tidal electricity generation could reach as high as £60-190b/year.

The cost of wave energy is currently high, but is likely to become competitive after 500MW-2GW of capacity has been installed. Wave energy is still in a very early development stage with many different types of wave energy converter existing. It will require a specific design to be chosen and developed before large scale wave projects will become viable because of learning curve benefits.


Where does Wave Energy Come From?

Four natural phenomena are responsible for ocean waves:

  • Small disturbances induced by bodies moving near or on the surface
  • Seismic disturbances (causing tsunamis)
  • Lunar and solar gravitational fields causing large waves and tides
  • Wind generation

Wind generates ocean waves by the following mechanisms:


These are surface waves. These are created by the frictional effect of wind against the ocean surface.


These are Swell Waves. These are waves that have been generated else-where and have travelled very far from their place of origin. They typically have very large wavelengths (300m—600m)*.

*Data from the Open University

The Design

How does the Device work?

  • The device employs a rack and pinion arrangement to extract wave energy.
  • The top "float" keeps the device buoyant and rests on the surface of the water while the lower part, or "heave plate" acts as a stabiliser and helps keep the device in one place.
  • Relative movement between the float and the base causes the pin-ion to move up and down the rack. This motion can then be used to drive a generator and hence produce electricity.


Updated: 12/11/09

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