Fraunhofer’s Mobile Wave Energy Harvester Barges In


Some recent green tech articles (e.g., this Ecogeek piece) have covered a mobile wave power system being developed by the Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation (FCMI), a Boston applied research institution.

FCMI’s system is a large ship or power barge fitted with a vast amount of storage capacity such as advanced batteries integrated with wave energy generators.  The barge would go out to sea, deploy the wave energy generators in the water to charge the batteries, then withdraw the generators and return to port to connect the fully charged batteries to the grid.

FCMI and Boston University co-own International Application WO 2011/060183, entitled “System for wave energy harvesting employing transport of stored energy” (‘183 Application).

The ‘183 Application is directed to systems and methods of wave energy harvesting comprising a vessel (10-I) having a vessel body (33), which includes the basic ship features as well as a wave energy harvesting apparatus carried by the body (33).

The wave energy harvesting apparatus includes buoys (34) and mechanical linkages (36) connecting the buoys (34) to the vessel body (33).  In certain embodiments, the buoys (34) are “heaving” buoys which float in the water and rise and fall with the movement of the waves (arrow 38 indicates wave direction).

The vessel (10-I) is anchored or otherwise moored at a harvesting location.  The heaving of the buoys (34) is translated by linkages (36) to corresponding mechanical motion on the vessel body (33), which is then converted into a form of storage in the batteries carried by the vessel body (33).

Figure 1 below shows an overview of the method, which includes several modes.  In the harvesting/storing mode (12), wave energy is absorbed and converted into stored energy. 

In the transporting mode (14), the vessel travels to a releasing location, where, in releasing mode (18), the stored energy is used to generate electricity provided to an electrical grid (20).

Finally, in the returning mode (24), the vessel (10) returns to the harvesting location to start another cycle of operation.

According to FCMI’s web site, the mobile wave energy harvesting system has several advantages including obviating the need for expensive undersea power cables, ability to move the system safely to port during stormy weather, and avoiding regulatory hurdles associated with permanent structures.

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Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.