Power generated from the sea
04 May 2012 | YADHANA JADOO
DURBAN - Durban could be the first city in the world to generate electricity from sea currents.
The ocean’s powerful Agulhas current, which runs alongside the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, has prompted an offshore company to launch a $20 million (about R155 million) demonstration project, which is set to be completed in the next two years.
And if all goes well, the initiative would be a step forward in using hydrokinetic energy as a source of power in South Africa.
Durban is not the only city in SA that is suitable to develop the project, says Luciano Garcia-Baylleres COO of Hydro Alternative Energy (HAE), Inc.
“But the interest for developing the demonstration unit here is basically a composition of many things; which include the technical resources, the skills of its labour force, the port infrastructure, general friendly atmosphere for relations and business and most importantly for the Agulhas current which has excellent characteristics for our technology,” he told The Super Saturday Citizen.
Hydrokinetic energies are obtained from tidal and ocean currents. HAE’s “Oceanus” system allows for ocean current extraction which can then be converted into usable energy that can be transported and used through a normal power grid.
“The Agulhas current is very consistent, running at average speeds of 1.6 m/s, which has the potential for great power generation.”
According to HAE, the Oceanus consists of two primary modules, the amplification module which is the shroud, and the engine module that allows for power generation.
“The amplification module is a housing that will multiply the normal incoming water flow to a faster velocity as it passes through the engine module, generating more kinetic energy.”
This in turn results in potentially greater electrical power generation and could potentially increase usable offshore locations.
Standing at about five storeys high, the Oceanus would be submerged about 40 metres below sea level in order to prevent interference with shipping.
“A full size turbine could have the ability to generate over five megawatts of power and a complete system could generate as much as commercially viable, or as much as the specific site would allow without altering its basic nature,” said Garcia-Baylleres.
A city like Durban has a consumption of about 3 000 MW.
The power generated is compatible to Eskom rates and is a reliable source of energy that can be produced 24/7 with the possibility of becoming a base power.
SA had previously considered sea tides as a power source but it was not a good option, Garcia-Baylleres said.
The reason for this was the country’s low tidal differential which did not offer the best power potential with today’s technology.
The company insists there would be no environmental interference during the project, but would complete a full Environmental Impact Assessment as demanded by government in order to deploy the system.
“We appreciate very much the hospitality and warmth received from the people of South Africa.”
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