Energy from the Waves by D. Ross (Auth.)

By D. Ross (Auth.)

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We know that they are polluting and dangerous. There is no mathematical equation to take account of these factors. But if money matters, so do the other considerations. Then there is his second point that wave energy will not be available as readily as other forms. "Most power plants", he argues, "are available to produce power on demand, a net availability of close to 100%. " My first response to this was to mention that nuclear power stations were liable to be out of service, when something went wrong, for 18 months at a time and only between 40% and 60% are working at any one time.

The wheel, so to speak, turned full circle when steam challenged water. For a long time the power of water was greater. As late as 1854, a water wheel was built by the Great Laxey Mining Company on the Isle of Man to pump water from a lead mine. It was 21 m in diameter and weighed 100 tonnes and produced 172 kW. Ten years later another wheel, 190 kW, was erected at Rishworth Mills, near Halifax. 5 MW. But steam was winning. Its strength was that it could produce more power than water wheels in most countries.

The most elaborate tests, in laboratories or lakes or sheltered coastal waters, can never reproduce the fury of the open sea. Yet it is a fact that, even before they knew what they were facing, Victorian engineers were able to build harbours, breakwaters and piers which could survive the sea for 150 and more years. The surge wave which swept away part of Margate pier in January, 1978 was evidence not that the sea was irresistible but that what civil engineers could do in 1800, in providing a structure that would last until 1978, can be eminently better done now.

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