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A Potion from Ocean!

Gone are the days when food, clothing and shelter were the necessities for survival. To satisfy all these needs, we need access to one special need-electricity. As per the research conducted by the International Energy Agency (IEA), approximately 1.1 billion that is 14% of the global population do not have access to electricity. Majority of them suffer from the supply, rather than that of poor quality. Under these circumstances, it becomes essential to search for alternative sources of energy.

India has made some severe contribution of solar and wind energy. But ocean energy is something not heard off. The irony is that India has got a long coast line up to 7517 km, and we are not leveraging it. However, a team of researchers from IIT Madras and the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) have made significant development in the field of ocean energy. There are multiple ways to generate electricity from ocean waves, but the team has concentrated its efforts on creating it via turbines.

The study conducted by International Journal of Engineering, Management and Sciences have found it that wave energy has the potential to appreciate the country’s economy by offering three-fold returns, i.e., economic, social and environmental. However, the cost of installation of energy for generating energy from waves is too high, but the working cost of this technology is zero.

The efforts to use ocean energy had been taken since 1983 by the Department of Ocean Engineering, IIT Madras under the backing of the Indian Government’s Department of Ocean Development. This research resulted in the establishment of a 150 kW Pilot wave energy plant in 1991 at Vizhinjam, Kerala. Though this plant was running soundly, the production was not up to the mark. It was not enough for commercialization. Unfortunately, it was decommissioned.

An ocean can provide two types of energy- thermal energy from the heat of the sun and mechanical energy from the tides and waves. The turbine developed by the team capture the energy of the periodic up-down motion of ocean waves with the device called Oscillating Water Column. One of these turbines is called an impulse turbine, which is connected to a generator. Impulse turbine converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. It uses the power of a high-velocity air jet formed by the waves in the device.

The turbine is the core component of the wave energy system. A lot of research is done through fluid dynamic analysis, experimental system development, design and tests. It took seven years of hard work and more than two dozen of researcher’s work to develop this turbine from scratch. The weak turbine was the cause of failure of all early attempts in ocean energy. The turbine developed by the team can generate 150 Watt of power. Being in the nascent stage, it will be unjust to compare it with the power generated by coal and petroleum.

India has got the massive potential to generate energy via ocean waves. The Government should encourage entrepreneurs and scientist to come up with an innovative idea and products to leverage ocean energy. Do you have any thoughts with regards to renewable energy sources? We would love to hear you out on Bots ‘N Brains.

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