This summer two Finnish inventors of wave power converters are demonstrating their prototypes in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
After years of development and model-making, the ‘WaveRoller’, a power plant conceived by diver Rauno Koivusaari, is now ready for action off the coast of Portugal.
Another Finnish brain-child is being tested on the coast of Scotland. Developed by Espoo resident Heikki Paakkinen, “the Penguin” sways with the waves, at the same time spinning a generator inside the unit.
The first weeks of the 30-meter-long power plant in the Atlantic have been promising.
“Though the sea looks calm, strong movement is constantly taking place inside the device,” says Paakkinen, Managing Director of Wello, a Finnish company specialising in ocean wave energy.
Seeing is believing
As wave power technology is something totally new, inventors have to build full-scale units to convince power companies.
“We can prove these things with calculations and tests, but in the end people will only believe when they see something for real. So we make a full-scale version,” Paakkinen says.
Neither inventor is looking for a fast buck. The summer tests will be continued for months. After this, it needs to be established how much electricity the units have produced, and how they bare up in autumn storms.
The first pre-commercial power units could be designed next year at the earliest.
A nascent industry
Wave energy has been predicted to grow into a business worth billions.
Experts at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra are hopeful of a growing market in wave power. Sitra, which has funded both Koivusaari’s and Paakkinen’s work, is confident of Finnish know-how in the field.
The capacities and costs of Finnish wave power units are now nearing estimates deemed sensible for electricity production.
Rauno Koivusaari, the father of the WaveRoller, is cautious in his hopes for the future.
“There is demand, and such a huge market. Also, no one has got any further than we have,” Koivusaari says of competitors, who have come up with a wide array of devices.
Penguin inventor Heikki Paakkinen concurs. “We have to come up with an equation, whereby we can economically produce devices that work and are capable of an unbroken supply of energy. I’d say we are very close to this point, we have all the necessary ingredients. A lot of energy will be produced in this manner in the future.”
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