Wave Power Harnessed by Giant Rubber Snakes

Researchers at the University of Southampton in England are testing a giant snake-like rubber tube designed to harness the power of waves. Dubbed the “Anaconda” after the South American snake, these simple, inexpensive tubes would produce clean, affordable energy from the world’s oceans. If deployed according to current plans, each Anaconda tube could produce enough electricity to power 2000 homes.
Giant Rubber Snake illustration (Credit: EPSRC) 
Giant Rubber Snake illustration (Credit: EPSRC)

Anaconda tubes are closed systems filled with water placed 40 to 100 meters below the surface of the ocean. The tubes – estimated at 200 meters long and 7 meters in diameter in their production form – are oriented so waves hit the end of the tubes, generating bulge waves that travel along the tube at the same speed as the waves that originated them. The external wave squeezes the flexible tube, causing the internal bulge wave to grow bigger. The bulge wave eventually hits a turbine at the very end of the tube, generating electricity that is fed to a power system via a cable. 

Previous attempts to harness wave power have not been cost effective, in large part because their heavier metal structures and more complex designs with articulated joints and hydraulic rams are much more expensive to manufacture and maintain. 

The Anaconda is a joint project funded primarily by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRSC). The original design and concept of the Anaconda was formulated by physicist Francis Farley and Rod Rainey of Atkins Oil & Gas but the testing is being performed by fluid mechanics and ocean engineering groups at the University of Southampton. Manufacturing rights belong to CheckMate SeaEnergy, a subsidiary of the CheckMate Group, formed specifically for that purpose.  

Power from the ocean (Crediit: EPSRC) 
Power from the ocean (Crediit: EPSRC)

The system has currently been tested in limited fashion using experimental prototypes with diameters of 0.25 and 0.5 meters. Further testing with tubes of these sizes is planned to monitor conditions such as tube shape, internal pressure, tube deformations, and state of the mooring cables in various water conditions. Their goal is to create mathematical models that can be extrapolated to the larger Anaconda tubes. If these initial tests go well, researchers hope to perform further tests with a one third scale model next year and produce full sized Anaconda tubes within the next five years. 

TFOT has reported on other innovative power sources including the HyWind floating wind turbine, the Selsam Superturbine designed to be extremely efficient and operate in severe weather conditions, a new floating wind turbine from Blue H Technologies set to be tested off the coast of Massachusetts, and the Repower wind turbine, currently the largest wind turbine in the world. 

More about the Anaconda can be found on the official EPSRC press release here or on the site maintained by Francis Farley here. In addition, you can watch videos of the Anaconda in either Windows Media format or QuickTime format hosted by CheckMate SeaChange.