More than a decade ago, an Australian company started a project that will change the way we live. They started building generators powered by waves that feed into the local power grid. And back in February, they turned it on.
The technology, called CETO after a Greek sea goddess, converts open ocean swells into a no-emission, completely renewable form of power.
While the inner workings are not all that simple, the idea itself is: pumping units are laid on the seafloor anywhere between 80 and 160 feet. Above them, large buoys are tethered. Waves hit the buoys, which drive the pumps, which in turn push pressurized water into a pipeline to hydroelectric power station. There, the seawater drives a turbine and creates electricity.
According to Carnegie Wave Energy, the company that’s running the project, “The high-pressure water can also be used to supply a reverse osmosis desalination plant, replacing or reducing reliance on greenhouse gas-emitting, electrically-driven pumps usually required for such plants.”
But a project like CETO doesn’t come cheap–in total, it’s at the $32 million dollar mark right now. A company called Australian Renewable Energy Agency threw in a lump sum of $13 million to help things along. “This is the first array of wave power generators to be connected to an electricity grid in Australia and worldwide,” said Ivor Frischknecht, the CEO. “During the test phase, the first 240kW peak capacity CETO 5 wave unit operated successfully for more than 2,000 hours.”
Carnegie Wave Energy also has a CETO 6 unit, which, as the number denotes, are larger. They also are expected to generate four times as much power.