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NASA – Turning the Tide to Energy

New Concept Could Harness the Power of Ocean Waves

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NASA researchers who developed a new way to power robotic underwater vehicles believe a spin-off technology could help convert ocean energy into electrical energy on a much larger scale. The researchers hope that clean, renewable energy produced from the motion of the ocean and rivers could potentially meet an important part of the world’s demand for electricity.

Jack Jones, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Yi Chao, a JPL scientist, have designed a new kind of underwater hydrokinetic energy system. It uses water motion to generate a high-pressure liquid rather than electricity. That liquid is then transported to shore and used to produce electricity on land. Caltech, which operates JPL for NASA, holds the patent on this innovative energy technology.

In the large-scale JPL/Caltech hydrokinetic energy transfer system Jones and Chao propose, ocean tides, currents and waves, as well as river flows, would provide the energy source to create the high-pressure liquid. As the water turns underwater turbine blades, the rotor’s rotational speed would be increased through a gearbox, which drives a high-pressure fluid pump. The high-pressure fluid would be transported though flexible tubes to a larger pipe and then to an efficient, onshore hydroelectric power plant. “If we use fresh water in a closed cycle and recycle the fluid, there would be no direct impact to the ocean or river’s ecosystem,” Chao adds.

“A major advantage of this design,” says Jones, “is that it eliminates all submerged electrical components, which are subject to corrosion.” In addition, other tidal turbine energy systems, such as the one now in operation in Manhattan’s East River, transfer the power generated by the turbines to the surface through buried electrical cables. These are expensive, hard to maintain, and can be dangerous, Jones says. Similar issues exist with two other types of hydrokinetic systems in use in the United Kingdom and planned for South Korea.

316220main_tide_portal_bigIn the proposed hydrokinetic energy transfer system, the flow of water current causes turbine blades to rotate. The rotor’s rotational speed is increased through a gearbox, which drives a high-pressure fluid pump. The high-pressure fluid would be transported though flexible tubes to a larger pipe and then to an efficient, onshore hydroelectric power plant.

“The JPL/Caltech hydrokinetic energy transfer system combines a simple, corrosion-resistant subsurface design with the least expensive electrical energy generation system onshore,” says Jones.”The JPL/Caltech hydrokinetic energy transfer system combines a simple, corrosion-resistant subsurface design with the least expensive electrical energy generation system onshore,” says Jones.

“Our proposed system has another advantage,” he says. “The pressurized hydraulic energy can be stored in an elevated onshore reservoir and can be used to generate electricity when it is needed to respond to energy-demand. Most environmentally friendly energy systems produce power intermittently.”

“This type of hydraulic energy transfer system is potentially applicable to many types of hydrokinetic energy from rivers, ocean waves, tides and currents,” Chao says. Scientists can use state-of-the-art computer models of winds, river flows, ocean currents and tides to determine any location’s potential for energy production, he adds. They can also predict how much energy could be produced in the future to help in planning energy use and storage.

Jones and Chao will be presenting a paper on the JPL/Caltech hydrokinetic energy transfer system at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers conference on Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering this summer in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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No Responses to “NASA – Turning the Tide to Energy”

  1. whamx.com Says:

    NASA – Turning the Tide to Energy | Forced Green…

    NASA researchers who developed a new way to power robotic underwater vehicles believe a spin-off technology could help convert ocean energy into electrical energy on a much larger scale….

  2. wilson Says:

    In this case, I think Hawaii would be the most suitable place, as it always surrounded by tidal waves every day. Linda!

    wilsons last blog post..To Write or Not To Write?

  3. Iip Albanjary Says:

    as the earth consists of water, generating energy from water should be more feasible and greener.

    Iip Albanjarys last blog post..The most vulnerable cities to Climate Change in Southeast Asia

  4. Heath Says:

    I had heard people were looking into this, but never knew how they were going about it. That is cool. If they could get that going for the people on the coast and wind for the interior and solar everywhere, it could go a long way in our energy needs.

  5. Linda Says:

    Hi Wilson … Yep! I do not know if that is the site they will start with but I would!

  6. Linda Says:

    Hi Iip … Absolutely! It should not even affect the shipping lanes either.

  7. Linda Says:

    Hi Heath … You are witnessing history in the making and you will be able to see the end result in your lifetime. That is what is really cool!

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