Professor Qingwei Ma seeks to unlock the potential of marine wave energy

[I wrote a research paper in high school in the 70’s about wave and tidal energy production, as well as OTEC, ocean thermal energy conversion. Wave energy looked liked the worst of the three back then. It probably still is.~charles]

The City, University of London academic will lead on the development of a new generation modelling suite, combining machine learning techniques, for the survivability of wave energy converters in marine environments


Grant Announcement


City, University of London Professor of Hydrodynamics, Professor Qingwei Ma, will be helping the UK achieve its net zero carbon emissions goal by developing cutting-edge new wave energy technologies.

Supported by a £1m research grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Professor Ma will develop the WavE-Suite, a new generation modelling suite for the survivability of wave energy converters in marine environments.

Professor Ma’s project will build on the UK’s leading role in marine wave energy to overcome challenges to devices that capture the energy generated by waves and convert it into a renewable source of electricity.

He says that there is a long history of research into wave energy converters (WECs), “but there are still many challenges to be overcome before they can become fully effective, reliable and economically viable”.

“One of the challenges is the lack of robust modelling tools to assess survivability of WECs under extreme marine environments that cause extreme loads and large responses. Such numerical modelling tools should have the capability of dealing with breaking waves and two-phase flow and accurately estimating the effect of viscosity in turbulent states. In the meantime, they must be fast enough so that engineers can simulate the cases within practical time-scales for design.”

Assisted by Dr Shiqiang Yan, the project will develop a novel numerical modelling suite by combining different models and by proposing new numerical approaches and machine learning techniques, which will be more accurate and require less computational effort. The modelling suite will be able to automatically go up to very complex simulations only when necessary, and down to simple simulations, depending on the conditions under which the WECs work.

The WavE-Suite project creates a new collaboration with leading academics from Imperial College, University of Edinburgh, University of Bath, Cardiff University, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and leading WEC developers, including Mocean in Scotland, CorPower Ocean in Sweden, Guangzhou Institute of Energy Conversion (GIEC) in China and BiMEP in Spain.

Professor Ma was granted the CH Kim Award by the International Society of Offshore and Polar Engineers (ISOPE) in 2016. He is the first academic from a UK university, and the second from Europe, to have received the award. He also received the 2015 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching


From EurekAlert!

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Alexy Scherbakoff
March 30, 2021 10:04 pm

What’s it matter if it works or not? As long as you get the money.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
March 30, 2021 10:50 pm

OPM that is.

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 30, 2021 11:13 pm

It’s called ‘gaming the system’.

Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
March 31, 2021 6:55 am

You should read the project press package before making cynical assumptions:

How it works: The Sun’s rays naturally fall on the atmosphere creating wind, which in turn creates the waves. So, we take those waves and direct them into a venturi chamber, to recreate the wind. Then we take that wind and capture its energy using wind turbines. These turbines then drive generators, which power ultraviolet lights that mimic the sun. And finally, these lights are focused on solar panels, capturing the energy for our use, just the way nature intended.


Last edited 1 year ago by Anon
Wayne Townsend
Reply to  Anon
March 31, 2021 8:59 am

You almost had me. The proper HTMLS is not /s, it’s </sarc>. If you don’t code it properly the sarcasm never ends.

Last edited 1 year ago by Wayne Townsend
Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Anon
April 1, 2021 9:40 am

This concept is not new. There is an installation on an island west of Wales or something. The rise and fall of the water in a vertical concrete tube creates the wind movement.

It’s pretty silly. They would get far more energy by tapping the rising and falling water than the air it displaces.

John Pickens
March 30, 2021 10:35 pm

Yet another “renewable” energy “source” which will require 100% backup much of the time (calm seas, too rough seas), and will most likely never recover the energy cost of building the systems.

Reply to  John Pickens
March 31, 2021 4:48 am

miles offshore there are almost never calm seas …

John Pickens
Reply to  lackawaxen123
March 31, 2021 4:57 am

“Almost” is the problem. You can’t plan a month in advance for “Almost”, unlike shutdown of reliable nuclear, hydro, or thermal plants on a schedule.

Reply to  lackawaxen123
March 31, 2021 8:24 am

A few things. First, as a long-time sailor and commercial fisherman, I’ve spent a good chunk of time “miles offshore” … and calm seas, while not overly common, are not overly uncommon either.

Second, wind turbines require wind above a certain speed to start generating. Wave power designs I’ve seen look the same, they won’t generate for beans until waves are above a certain size.

Finally, even if seas are too calm to generate only once per month, you can’t predict when. As a result, you need about 100% backup, just like with wind and solar.


Reply to  lackawaxen123
March 31, 2021 1:45 pm

The OP reads as if there will be research, through models, into the survivability of the kit.

From a working life in shipping, I know that the salty damp atmosphere and temperatures, together, do naughty things to many metals – plus rubbers and plastics, etc.

I guess the kits’ power/energy will be in the form of electricity.
Electricity doesn’t always play nicely with sea water.
If folk are serious about getting energy from the oceans – waves, tidal flows, currents – making the kit last seems a good idea – though whether that is necessary or desirable is a different question entirely.


March 30, 2021 10:36 pm

Oh, wow, another computer model.
Just amazing.

Timo Soren
Reply to  joel
March 31, 2021 8:54 am

Hey, a “novel” model.

Don’t want to build something to see what fails, instead spend millions on pretending.

Reply to  joel
March 31, 2021 11:26 am

No, it’s a SUITE of models.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
March 31, 2021 2:44 pm

How sweet!

Hokey Schtick
March 30, 2021 10:41 pm

Research grants. Nice work if you can get it.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Hokey Schtick
March 30, 2021 10:53 pm

Who does not love OPM?
This is just like a college20-something getting rich Daddy’s credit card for Spring Break booze and sex week-long bender on a Florida beach. What’s not to love?
Until the credit bill arrives.

Joel O'Bryan
March 30, 2021 10:49 pm

Just more low density energy harvesting schemes that have zero hope of powering an advanced technological society with heavy industry.

Going in reverse towards less dense energy sources can only lead to real disaster for our modern societies.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 31, 2021 12:14 am

Sound good to too many people.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 1, 2021 9:45 am

It is far better to tap the rising and falling water, and connect it to a flywheel. It should be a water turbine not a wind turbine, and a flywheel to get over the drop in energy during each reversal. Because of the way the inlets can be shaped, the water rises about 10 ft even when the wave is much lower. None of this concept is new, save that they preferred to move air instead of tapping the water directly.

Clever things can be done with waves when they meet the shore. One approach is to get the water to coast up hill and be retained in a shallow pond that drains continuously to the sea through a water turbine.

March 30, 2021 10:53 pm

Extracting tidal energy might finally change the Moon orbit and the Earth orbit around the sun.
The tidal system is an oscillator with a given damping. Increasing the damping may change the tidal delay with respect to the orbital motions.
I have no idea what might be the consequences.

Reply to  Alex
March 30, 2021 10:58 pm

Already now, trapping the wind causes severe summer droughts over the Europe.
What happens if they start extracting energy from waves and flows, could lead to a worldwide disaster in climate and ecology.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Alex
March 30, 2021 11:15 pm

you forgot the ‘LOL’ or /S tag at the end of your comment.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 31, 2021 12:27 am

No, it is very serious.
The tidal energy is NOT renewable.

Reply to  Alex
March 31, 2021 1:20 am

No energy is renewable.

The universe – according to the Rational Materialists of Science – acquired all its energy and none of its entropy in the Big Bang, and the entropy has been increasing ever since, and since it’s entropy that gives us usable ‘energy’, all ‘energy’ will eventually run out.

Wave power is just wind power, and wind power is just a third order effect of solar energy, and solar energy is a remote uncontrolled unshielded intensely radiative cancer causing nuclear reactor gone runaway.

David A
Reply to  Leo Smith
March 31, 2021 5:29 am

Lei, certainly you can take a more positive outlook for the Sun?
An intensely stable radiative mass which gives rise to life on earth, and destroys viruses.

Reply to  Leo Smith
March 31, 2021 8:52 am


Obviously we need to harness the power of entropy. It is the only thing in the Universe that is still increasing and being created!

Details and implementation are left to the reader.

Reply to  Marklark
March 31, 2021 11:52 am

I’ll apply for a grant to model it.

Vincent Causey
Reply to  Alex
March 30, 2021 11:44 pm

You can bet that, once these things have been researched and then built, new research will come along showing how we’re slowing down the Earth’s rotation, and this will be catastrophic.

Reply to  Alex
March 31, 2021 2:36 am

Alex, this is not about tidal which works after a fashion, it is about wave energy which so far hasn’t worked.

M Courtney
Reply to  Oldseadog
March 31, 2021 4:47 am

Wave energy works fine. It uses a lot of ignored resource.
The problem is that the resource is ignored for a reason.

Maintenance costs for anything in the ocean are huge.

This is really an engineering challenge in robustness, not any new technologies. Keep it simple, modular and easily retrievable on cables for (necessarily cheap) replacements and it could actually work.
Wave power is not intermittent.

David A
Reply to  M Courtney
March 31, 2021 5:31 am

Of course it is. If the wind is intermittent, then waves are to. Surf’s up! Surf’s flat.

Randle Dewees
Reply to  M Courtney
March 31, 2021 6:41 am

This surfer disagrees

Reply to  M Courtney
March 31, 2021 8:18 am

As both a surfer and a long-time seaman, I can assure you that wave power is assuredly intermittent. Yes, there is almost always some motion of the ocean, just as there is almost always some motion of the atmosphere … but both are quite commonly far too calm to be a source of power.


Reply to  M Courtney
March 31, 2021 12:14 pm

I disagree that wave energy works fine, and agree that the maintenance costs are huge which is why it is a non-starter. Wave energy is intermittant in that the size of the waves or the swell is not constant, sometimes you will have 90 ft. waves and sometimes 1 ft. waves. Don’t tell me that each generates the same amount of electricity. For wave you need 100% backup, so why do it to start with? Wave is also very fragile.Try mooring something in 50 fathoms of water with a possible maximum wave height of 110 ft.. The cost of the mooring cable and ground tackle will be very high and even if you are prepared to pay that much if someone hits with a ship the whole array will be lost. On the other hand, tidal although intermittant in any one place is 100% predictable until someone drops an anchor on it.

Reply to  M Courtney
March 31, 2021 11:46 pm

“Wave energy works fine”

Yes … at smashing wave energy generators, sea defences & eroding coastlines, but useless at producing electricity.

The first patent was 220yrs ago (there have beem1,000s since), so please show us just one wave energy project that has provided meaningful amounts of energy consistently for 3 mths.

“Wave power is not intermittent”
What kind of brain spawns a stupid statement like that ???
Get your mum to take you to the seaside for a week.

Reply to  Alex
March 31, 2021 7:56 am

This is a joke, right? Even if we could extract enough energy from the tides (which btw this article is not about) to supply all our electrical needs, it would not change the Moon’s orbit even a centimeter, much less the Earth’s orbit. But I assume you were joking.

March 30, 2021 10:59 pm

My favorite part?

Professor Ma’s project will build on the UK’s leading role in marine wave energy …

Care to guess how much commercial wave energy generation has resulted from the “UK’s leading role in marine wave energy”?

Yep, you’re right. None.

As a man with thousands and thousands of sea miles under my belt, including a trans-Pacific crossing under sail and a single-handed sail from Seattle to near San Francisco, I can assure you that the marine environment is incredibly harsh and unforgiving. Design numbers for wave impact, for example, are on the order of a ton per square foot (about 10 tonnes per square metre). There’s a reason that the bottom of the ocean is littered with shipwrecks.

In addition, you have both ordinary corrosion and electrolytic corrosion, AKA “rust”. Electrolytic corrosion occurs whenever two different metals are touching in the marine environment. They form a battery, and one of them is eaten away.

And as the seafolk say, “Rust never sleeps” …

These problems are only compounded when the vessel (or wave energy conversion device) is anchored. There’s a reason that boats rarely anchor up in the open ocean, even where it’s shallow enough. The forces developed when a breaking wave brings the floating object up to the limit of its anchor chain are stupendous.

To date, dozens and dozens of designs have been tried, and they’ve all failed.

Now, it’s a good thing that the good Professor is building a whiz-bang computer model to simulate new ideas, because that will at least weed out the obvious losers.

But at the end of the day, it comes up against the problem with all renewables—they are intermittent, unreliable, and not “dispatchable”. That last one means you can’t just turn them on and off as you need them. So if you add a gigawatt of wave energy to your grid, you also have to add a gigawatt of dispatchable power, which these days means fossil fuel.

There’s a reason why China burns more than half the world’s coal, and is building hundreds of new coal power plants … because renewables suck the green begonia.


Last edited 1 year ago by Willis Eschenbach
Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 30, 2021 11:19 pm

The folks pushing these low energy density things understand PT Barnum’s maxim:
“Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public.” 

which is not to be eclipsed by:
“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Coeur de Lion
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 31, 2021 12:23 am

Don’t forget marine foulingp

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 31, 2021 1:27 am

Metals, electricity and salt water don’t mix. Galvanic processes can destroy metal on a boat in months if you don’t design for it or don’t replace the sacrificial zincs before they are gone.

Last edited 1 year ago by rbabcock
Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 31, 2021 5:55 am

Now, it’s a good thing that the good Professor is building a whiz-bang computer model to simulate new ideas, because that will at least weed out the obvious losers.

Not really. As you point out, the major problem with any wave energy scheme is keeping the mechanisms from corroding or otherwise breaking down. How is a computer model going to address that? Now if the grant were directed to in some way speed the development and production of better materials, that might change the landscape.

All we need to make wave energy practical is new materials that allow moving parts to remain sealed and lubricated under water for decades, and that neither corrode nor permit accretion of sea life on their surfaces. Simple. We should have that about the same time we have grid-scale batteries. /sarc.

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 31, 2021 11:07 am

Hey, “Sucks the green begonia” is my line. I invented it. I am proud, however, grateful even, to see others using it. Also useful in similar situations: “Blows like a beached whale”, “Eats raw rocks”, and “Won’t start a fart”. You’re welcome.

I also invented “Warmer Is Better”. You’re welcome to that memette, too.

Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
April 1, 2021 8:30 am

Good creativity. About twenty-five years ago, I created (along with a few thousand others), “Warm, good. Cold, bad. Gore, idiot.”
Unlike EVERY pronouncement of the warmists, it’s as true today as it was then.

Patrick MJD
March 30, 2021 11:01 pm

How many wave energy projects have worked before?

Reply to  Patrick MJD
March 31, 2021 1:08 am

The first patent for wave energy was by Pierre-Simon Girard Paris 1799,
since then there have been 1,000s …
None have worked successfully.
They ether don’t produce more than a few kW or are ripped apart by nature.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  saveenergy
March 31, 2021 1:12 am

So this “project” is a money grab. Who knew.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Patrick MJD
March 31, 2021 5:38 am

They will make it right, this time.

March 30, 2021 11:29 pm

Waves are liquid wind. To it we should add tides and heat extraction. Also we should add in availability and horses for renewable courses.

In this respect Britain is theoretically a good candidate for this technology as we are an island with nowhere more than 70 miles from the sea and with a large number of established coastal cities where existing electricity transmission lines exist .

Sea energy was sidelined some 30 years ago by wind and solar and although we had sporadic efforts such as the wave hub in Cornwall, we haven’t got very far in developing the potential of the seas.

Against all this we have the fact that it is low density energy and whilst tides are predictable they are not constant, whilst waves are at the mercy of the weather gods,.

Add in the sheer hostility of the seas whereby the constant pounding of waves and wind and the effects of salt water make this an unforgiving environment.

Whilst Fossil fuels would be better and nuclear better still, the powers that be inexplicably believe in the power of the weather gods, so much money will be spent on marine technology until we realise there are better alternatives.

At present the best alternative- in as much it wears a green coat- is nuclear, but most govts seem to want to avoid this technology, so we must expect our reliable power grids will continue to be degraded whilst the weather gods laugh at us for placing so much reliance on them


Iain Reid
March 30, 2021 11:36 pm

I did my electrical apprenticeship in the 1960s with the U.K.’s Central Electricity Generating Board and I remember being shown a film of a trial wave generating system. I don’t remember it ever coming to anything.
I doubt anything has changed, but as Willis pointed out, another asynchronous form of generation which if Boris’s aspirations come to fruit we will have too much of anyway.

March 30, 2021 11:46 pm

Instead of the government paying for this study, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense if they auctioned the wave-energy rights to a stretch of coast (with suitable conditions including a time limit). This would (a) be taking in money not spending tax-payers’ money on something that might not work and with no incentive to make it work, and (b) tell them how likely it was to actually work (no bids at all, for example, or a top bid of £1, could tell them something).

Reply to  Mike Jonas
March 31, 2021 4:12 am

Brilliant idea that could also be applied to a huge number of tax-funded academic research projects in order to establish their true value.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
March 31, 2021 7:46 am

Trouble is you would find someone pays big bucks for those leases because some bureaucrat would intentionally place fine print in the contract that would allow Tiki bars or Casinos to be built to defray technology development costs, and resulting in net zero power generation, but net positive lease revenue. Smart money collectors these bureaucrats….

Curious George
Reply to  Mike Jonas
March 31, 2021 7:55 am

I imagine holders of the lease chasing surfers away ..

Craig from Oz
March 30, 2021 11:53 pm

Here in Oz we had a couple of experimental projects that got funding and were built to very warm and fuzzy media reports.

Then they broke their moorings during a storm and shifted themselves down the beach. They then stayed there because no one was willing to take enough ownership of the gathering rust to get them moved again.

Not saying this will be the same design, but the phrase ‘Damaged during storm’ does seem closely related to these sorts of projects.

Reply to  Craig from Oz
March 31, 2021 12:13 pm

On the bright side, when they sink to the bottom, reefs start forming on them and the reefs attract fish.

It just seems to me to be a duplication of the artificial reef projects. I suspect it would be cheaper to just tow the wave energy apparatus out to where you want to establish a reef and scuttle the thing right off.

I think you could get the fishing enthusiasts to vote for it.
I wonder if reef formation from sunk wave energy devices will be included in Professor Ma’s suite of models?

March 31, 2021 12:12 am

From the article
“ but there are still many challenges to be overcome before they can become fully effective, reliable and economically viable”.

Shouldn’t that “fully” be “even a little bit”?

It appears there is at least one born every decade. Perhaps the real pandemic is an insanity virus.

March 31, 2021 12:19 am

a much better bet is tidal turbines – already operationally deployed off N Scottish coast

Reply to  griff
March 31, 2021 6:23 am

Butt but but…we have solar/wind power so who needs this stuff?

Krishna Gans
Reply to  griff
March 31, 2021 9:27 am

You certainely never heard about the ecological problems of tidal turbines ?

The conflict between environmental and climate protection became particularly clear in the dispute over the planning of the Severn tidal power plant in Great Britain. Environmentalists warned that the area of the planned power plant would destroy a wintering area for around 70,000 seabirds. Eels or salmon would also no longer be able to reach their spawning grounds above the stream. In the meantime, it has become apparent that the French tidal power plant La Rance also had a considerable impact on the previous flora and fauna, because flowing water was largely transformed into standing water. Thus, although a tidal power plant generates clean energy without climate-damaging Co2, a serious intervention in the ecosystem must be accepted in return.


The technology of the plants is not yet fully developed. Germany does not yet have a tidal power plant, but there are power plants on the coasts of France and Great Britain whose output is comparable to that of small coal-fired power plants. It is assumed, however, that only about 100 coastal locations worldwide would also be suitable for an economic electricity yield of this kind.

Last edited 1 year ago by Krishna Gans
Reply to  Krishna Gans
March 31, 2021 11:07 am
Krishna Gans
Reply to  fred250
March 31, 2021 11:10 am

Accentuation on “had” 😀

Bill Toland
Reply to  fred250
April 1, 2021 6:20 am

A more recent update on the company Oceanlinx which was responsible for the NSW debacle.

Reply to  griff
March 31, 2021 11:03 am

MUCH BETTER BET is GAS.. something you can RELY ON

comment image

Bill Toland
Reply to  griff
April 1, 2021 5:22 am

Griff, I assume you mean the Stroma project in Scotland. It is very small scale at the moment and it does not appear to be economically viable without large subsidies. For a tidal power plant to be viable and produce a significant amount of power, it will almost certainly have to be a tidal barrage scheme and all of these have been strongly opposed by environmentalists.

John V. Wright
March 31, 2021 12:52 am

I’ve never understood why Man has so far been unable to harness tidal flows for creating energy. The flows are predictable, regular and massive. Given our ingenuity in other scientific areas – landing a probe with its own helicopter on Mars is pretty impressive stuff – you would think that tidal energy production was within our capability.

Bill Toland
Reply to  John V. Wright
March 31, 2021 1:32 am

There are a number of tidal power plants around the world. The oldest is the Rance plant in France which has been operational since 1966. Britain has wonderful geography (eg the Severn estuary) for tidal power plants and there have been a number of proposals. However, every proposed tidal power plant in Britain has been opposed by environmentalists. If greens actually believed that global warming is an existential threat to mankind (as they claim), why are they against anything that might actually work?

Last edited 1 year ago by Bill Toland
Reply to  Bill Toland
March 31, 2021 11:38 am

Those folks want the amount of energy available to decline, thereby shutting down the modern technological society. Following that would be a decrease in population. Just as long as they get to keep their technological lifestyle, since they are the elites.

Teddy lee
Reply to  John V. Wright
March 31, 2021 1:35 am

I do believe that there is a tidal power generation system on the estuary of the river Rance in France.

Climate believer
Reply to  Teddy lee
March 31, 2021 9:32 am

There is indeed, I’ve visited on many occasion, it’s very interesting from an engineering perspective.

It works better as a bridge than a source of energy, but even so it does produce on average 96 MW (though nameplate is 240 MW).

It crosses an estuary with a huge tidal range, averaging ~8.2m but maxing at 13.5m.

Here’s a little PDF all about it in English for anyone that’s interested in such things:

Reply to  Climate believer
March 31, 2021 11:40 am

But the tide turns, so the power output isn’t constant over a 12-hour period. What is the backup?

Climate believer
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
March 31, 2021 2:34 pm

Nuclear reactors.
This thing produces 0.01 something or other percent of France’s electricity.
It is a combination of two-way generation and pumped storage.
It’s a 50 year old experiment really.

Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
April 2, 2021 9:35 am

Backup is nuclear but they did design in a series of locks to trap water at high tide and open them over time to give a bit longer generation time then you would see without those locks.

I had a course years back where this system was covered and one of the major draw backs is there is a minimum height difference between low and high tide to make it work. I don’t remember what that minimum is but it was big enough that there are few suitable places around the world to install this type of system. Makes it a worthless system overall IMO.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Teddy lee
March 31, 2021 9:57 am

Much of the benefit of that is the coast road that goes across the 1km causeway where the turbines are located. It saves a substantial trip up river to the next crossing. But at only 1km, the build cost was also cheap: the Swansea Bay proposals would have been 11.5km of barrage for a very similar level of output.

Reply to  John V. Wright
March 31, 2021 1:36 am

No. It is propbaly because you are not an engineer. When you learn and practice real engineering, you realise that engineering costs time and money and the thing that a college course teaches you above everythung is that firstly theory cant tell you that a thing is feasible, and in fact the greatest use of theory is to eliminate engineering solutions that are completely hopeless. Like square wheels. Or electric airliners. Or windmills to power a country. Or wave or tidal power

It takes no more than an hour or so of not very complex engineering calculations to show why these are thoroughly BadIdeas™.

Thats the difference between engineers and scientists. Scientists ask questions like ‘could it work’ and when the answer is ‘it could’ they rush around getting grants.

Engineers have been there, done that and have drawers full of T shirts. They want to know. “How will I build it?” “What will it cost?” “How long will it last?” “Will it ever repay the energy investment?” “What happens when a freak tsunami hits it?” “What will be its impact on the environment and local ecosystems?”

In most cases you can get an answer to these very quickly, and its usually a show stopper.
But engineers are not in charge of public money. Mainly it’s ArtStudents and wannabe CyanTits.

So the farce continues.

I leave you (hopefully) with a wonderful example of enginnering that could wotrk, but not very well..

The steam powered aeroplane

Reply to  Leo Smith
March 31, 2021 12:26 pm

CyanTits.” – It took me a minute… nice. I am s-o-o-o stealing that.

John V. Wright
Reply to  Leo Smith
March 31, 2021 3:23 pm

Thank you Leo. No, I’m not an engineer but I do have huge respect for engineers (and geologists, although not necessarily in that order). I am aware of the immense power of daily tidal surges and could never figure out why we have not worked out how to harness this power. I’m guessing from your reply that you think it is a non-starter. I understand the problems posed by environmental groups but in terms of the science/engineering I’m still unclear what the problem is. Thank you for taking the time to reply though.

Reply to  John V. Wright
March 31, 2021 9:11 pm

The main problem with green solutions is that the device will cost a lot and only give power once in awhile. Even the famous Bay of Fundy with the largest tides in the world eludes commercial development. The only exceptions have been hydro-electric power (Niagara Falls been the best commonly known example, where a dam wasn’t even required because of the escarpment) and atomic power, newly baptized by the EU as officially green, which does require expensive kit to use but there is a ridiculous amount of energy trapped inside. Alas I fear the fusion variant will never deliver on its promise, because tritium is $30,000 gram and highly dangerous, and coal less than $100/tonne.

Reply to  John V. Wright
April 1, 2021 5:21 pm

Korea has a 254MW tidal power plant operational for about 10 years now:

Reply to  Peter
April 1, 2021 6:27 pm

Thanks, Peter. According to your linked article the power plant generates “about 552.7 GWh annually” … which equals a constant generation of ~ 63 MW.

And since the nameplate capacity is 254 MW, that means that it has a pathetic capacity factor of just under 25% … that’s as bad as solar, and much worse than wind.


March 31, 2021 1:15 am

I’ve unlocked the true potential of wave energy with a magnet stuck to a ping pong ball in a bit of plastic drainpipe open at the bottom with a coil wound round the drainpipe. On stormy days you can just about see the needle on my trusted Avo meter, flicker.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Leo Smith
March 31, 2021 5:58 am

I thought for a second that was my grandfather’s venerable Simpson 260

Simpson 260-8-R.jpg
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
March 31, 2021 7:57 am

I have one. Can’t bear to throw it out.

Reply to  BobM
March 31, 2021 8:20 am

It’s a valuable antique.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Anti-griff
April 1, 2021 5:50 am

Antique??? You can still buy them new!

Chuck no longer in Houston
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
April 1, 2021 2:58 pm

I used a 260 in the Navy. Loved that thing, just rugged as heck. It always freaked me out when using it on deck when the air search radar was in use (which was pretty much always, at sea). Every time the antenna rotated in my direction, the protection circuit kicked in and popped the reset button. I think I still have it somewhere.

March 31, 2021 3:13 am

I vaguely remember something called “Salter’s Ducks”, a wave-power device which received a lot of favourable attention from the British media in the 1970’s. No one talks about them today.What happened to them?

Reply to  Graemethecat
March 31, 2021 4:15 am


I spoke to Professor Salter, Emeritus Professor at Edinburgh University, several years ago when I was writing an article on wave/tidal energy.

What happened to them is that the govt of the time got their costings grossly wrong and overestimated the costs of a larger project by a factor of 10 and curtailed public funding on what was a promising technology that you might have seen on ‘tomorrows world.’

you can read it here

Stephen Salter – Wikipedia


Reply to  tonyb
March 31, 2021 6:35 am

If it is so great, why has it not been revived?

Reply to  Graemethecat
March 31, 2021 7:58 am

It is quite easy to calculate how much power one would get from the raising and dropping of a float as a wave goes past, and the size of float required. Then you figure out a cost of the mechanism to accomplish that. Amortize the device and its required infrastructure over the expected seafront life expectancy of the device. Net result will be power that costs about 10 times grid power, or more.

Last edited 1 year ago by DMacKenzie
Reply to  Graemethecat
March 31, 2021 9:26 am

I didn’t say it was great, but it was promising. Prof Salter was very disillusioned by all the govt bungling ( I think Harold Wilson) and went into academia so it never got the promotion that went into solar and wind technology


Curious George
Reply to  tonyb
March 31, 2021 7:59 am

Government OVERESTIMATED the cost? World is a wonderful place ..

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  tonyb
March 31, 2021 9:59 am
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
March 31, 2021 12:13 pm

Short answer: Yes.

Dr Ken Pollock
Reply to  tonyb
April 3, 2021 7:46 am

As I recall Prof. Salter’s nodding ducks were claimed to produce 1hp per linear foot. In 1974, I gave a paper to the Exeter branch of the I MechE in which I calculated the value of that sort of output. At 50% efficiency, one would need a lot of ducks to replace the 1974 OPEC oil output. That is, they would need to stretch from here to the sun. I guess that may have been one of the reasons we have nor seen many deployed in the 45 years since then.

Climate believer
March 31, 2021 3:22 am

“Professor Qingwei Ma, will be helping the UK achieve its net zero carbon emissions goal by developing cutting-edge new wave energy technologies.”

Achieve, as in, “to succeed in accomplishing” lol!

I can assure you he will be doing nothing of the sort. We will never hear of Mr Ma again.

Another million quid wasted.

The work by: Callaghan, J.; Boud, R. Future Marine Energy. Results of the Marine Energy Challenge: Cost Competitiveness and Growth of Wave and Tidal Stream Energy; Carbon Trust: London, UK, 2006,  estimated the costs of energy generation between $1960/kW and $4900/kW in the United Kingdom.

…. any takers?

Here’s an interesting review of several recent WEC’s performance and efficiency, spoiler, it’s pitiful:

March 31, 2021 5:02 am

using a combination of floating oil rig and wind column turbines, wave power could be harnessed, but the economics most likely would be horrid … but it is possible …

Last edited 1 year ago by lackawaxen123
Trying to Play Nice
March 31, 2021 5:53 am

It’s so much easier to write modelling software than to go out and build an actual physical device. You can ignore the unknowns and not validate your model against reality but still get paid. No cold, windy days suffering in the sea trying to get your device working. You can just sit at home with your laptop and perform science miracles.

March 31, 2021 6:14 am

China no-show at latest U.K. climate conference

The first major country to jump off the pointless climate carousel.

This is the predicted result of years of orchestrated racist hostility to China and Russia dressed up as various flavours of self-righteousness. China and probably Russia are going to give a very simple message in return:

To take the whole climate agenda and put it where solar panels don’t work.

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
March 31, 2021 8:34 am

Using the retaliation angle for cover to do what they wanted to do anyway, simply stay home and ignore all the BS

John the Econ
March 31, 2021 8:57 am

Anyone who has owned or worked on a boat kept on or near salt water would immediately recognize the multitude of problems any infrastructure project like this would face. Water, wind, sun, salt, electricity, sea life and constant motion all conspire with each other to constantly destroy whatever is built in this environment. It’s an endless war against entropy. The required constant maintenance and very short service life compared to contemporary infrastructure suggests that devices like this will be uneconomical from the get-go. Consider than land-based windmills only have a lifespan of about 20 years. Complex sea-based devices probably wouldn’t survive less than half that.

Krishna Gans
Reply to  John the Econ
March 31, 2021 9:33 am

Tidal turbines are said to have a life time of 120 years, bult of plastic ? 😀

Last edited 1 year ago by Krishna Gans
Reply to  John the Econ
April 1, 2021 4:10 am

yes. That’s why we will never have offshore oil and gas platforms and wind turbines which are successfully dismantled after 25 years service.

John the Econ
Reply to  griff
April 1, 2021 10:59 am

Offshore oil and gas platforms are extremely expensive to maintain, but it’s worth doing so because of the high value of the oil and gas that can be extracted from a single installation. Can the same be said for a single wave installation or windmill @ sea?

Reply to  John the Econ
April 1, 2021 5:23 pm

spoken as a true engineer 🙂

March 31, 2021 10:59 am

Why would a Marine’s wave have any more energy than, say, a Soldier’s or a Sailor’s?

HA! I kill me.

It doesn't add up...
March 31, 2021 11:04 am

WHILE NOT(smashedup) DO

£1m please?

March 31, 2021 11:26 am

City, University of London Professor of Hydrodynamics, Professor Qingwei Ma, will be helping the UK achieve its net zero carbon emissions goal by developing cutting-edge new wave energy technologies.”

Windless days mean flat calm waters.
Winds of 10 knots mean 2-3 ft seas.
Winds of 20 knots mean 4-6 ft seas.

Of course, different areas, different depths and sea floor respond to winds differently.

When some yahoo is wasting money trying to draw energy from waves, it really means that their attempts at capturing energy directly from wind are failing.

Silly twits.

Steve Z
March 31, 2021 12:38 pm

There are plenty of computer models out there for waves.

What is really needed are empirical measurements of wave speed and height as a function of time, tides, and wind speed where a wave-power generator is to be located, to determine the feasibility and design of an eventual project, and the power that can realistically be generated..

But as other commenters have noted, Miss Ma already got her million, so she’s happy.

March 31, 2021 1:05 pm

I was a student at Lanchester Polytechnic (Coventry University) many years ago, I worked on development of a functioning wave energy system.

In short it worked OK, but politicians and politics killed off the project.

Jon R
March 31, 2021 1:08 pm

Summation make a computer model of computer models, that would really tie some people up.

Paul C
March 31, 2021 2:36 pm

One advantage of wave power – if it was ever deployed – is that the devices don’t need antifouling applied. The reason for this advantage is also the biggest disadvantage – in that they break before any significant fouling has taken place.
The £1million would be much better reserved to initiate an X-prize, with suitable criteria for wave generation – significantly more power produced than total to construct, install and decommission, two years in service with no maintenance, etc. The big advantage of X-prizes is that the money stays in the treasury unless the targets are achieved. You just have to make sure the target is of greater benefit to the country than the prize, and then you hope to pay out, which should in itself help fund the developers further deployment of their technology.
Notable X-prizes were :-
Longitude – The Board of Longitude, eventually paid to John Harrison, and others for advances in navigation.
The Orteig prize won by Charles Lindbergh – the most famous prize for achieving a trans-Atlantic flight.
The Ansari X-prize won by Burt Rutan – SpaceShioOne for re-usable non-governmental space plane.
The L-prize from US Department of Energy, for very efficient light bulb with high quality light won by Phillips. (Reminds me to check if the Phillips Dubai Lightbulb will ever be available outside the UAE)
While the x-prize foundation has taken over the name, and runs a number of x-prizes, I think they would be better structured in a winner-takes-all format in order to better drive technological advance into actual use.

Chris Hogg
March 31, 2021 3:45 pm

The track record of wave power so far is not impressive. Seven years ago, the wave device company Pelamis went into liquidation.

In 2010 the ‘Wave Hub’ was installed ten miles off the coast in West Cornwall, at a cost of £28 million. It’s purpose was to provide a test-bed for developers to evaluate pilot-scale devices that used wave power to generate electricity, under the demanding conditions that occur in off-shore situations. and

Eleven years later, not a watt of power has passed along the cable to the shore station, designed to handle 20MW, and no commercial organisation seems the slightest bit interested.

Only one device has ever been trialled there: ‘Oceanus 2’ owned by
Seatricity The device was only in place for a few weeks in the Summer of 2016 for preliminary evaluation, before breaking free of its tether in relatively calm weather. It was never tested in severe winter storms. Despite optimistic press releases, ‘Oceanus 2’ was not connected to the Wave Hub again.

The Australian company ‘Carnegie’ booked a berth on the Wave Hub, but pulled out a few years ago. An American company, Gwave also expressed an interest, but nothing has been heard of them for a long time.

Meanwhile, the Wave Hub sits on the sea floor gathering barnacles, a £28 million white elephant. Occasionally there is an optimistic announcement in the local press about some development or other, but nothing actually happens and it has all been quiet for several years. There has even been talk of dismantling the Hub, such is the commercial interest in wave power.

The big problem with all these floating devices is making them robust
enough to withstand the extremely aggressive conditions presented by a
salt water environment, and more particularly, the winter storms. For example, wave heights in the vicinity of the Wave Hub can be as high as 60 feet. The destructive power in those big waves is massive. You only have to see the very heavy construction of various navigational buoys and their anchor chains around the Cornish coast to appreciate what is required to cope with the conditions.

What depresses me is that the EPSRC don’t seem to have learnt the lessons of previous failed attempts to harness wave power, and are putting money into yet another project that will come to nothing.

Michael S. Kelly
March 31, 2021 9:40 pm

Professor Ma had expressed great interest in the involvement of climatologist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber in the project, but ran into resistance from ESRC Executive Chair Lynn Gladden. The more insistent Professor Ma became, the more rigid Ms Gladden’s opposition. The two had an explosive final confrontation in which Ms Gladden was heard to shout “Look, Ma, no Hans!”

April 1, 2021 7:39 am

Tidal energy is clean, powerful, dependable and and abundant. It’s amazing that no one has made a dent using amazing resource.

Reply to  Dave
April 1, 2021 9:33 am

Yep. You can depend on it going to zero four times a day … at which point it has to be replaced by fossil fuel or other dispatchable power. So if you add a megawatt of tidal power to your grid you also have to add a megawatt of fossil power.

Not only that, but half the time that fossil power will be operating at half-output or less, which is generally inefficient.

Next, while tidal power is abundant, places where you can actually harness that power are quite rare. You need a large enclosed bay with a narrow entrance, and even then it may have to be further closed off with a barrage. Such sites are few and far between.

Finally, you underestimate the corrosive nature of the marine environment. You know the old saying “What goes around, comes around”?

In the South Pacific we used to say “What goes around … stops.”

As a result, it’s not surprising in the least that “no one has made a dent using this amazing resource.”



April 1, 2021 8:40 am

There is a sucker born every minute. That this guy can get paid to research this useless energy source is wonderful for him.
The idea that you can harvest useful energy from such low frequency waves illustrates the lack of understanding of physics in educated people.

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