Snakes are typically associated with horror movies, snake charmers and energetic men showing off their talents for handling various poisonous reptiles on television. Generally speaking, people tend to avoid snakes and are happiest viewing the creatures from a distance, but it was the shape of a snake that spurred the idea for a unique wave energy system-the “Anaconda”. This rubber snake rolls over ocean currents, with an almost soothing motion, absorbing the natural energy created from each passing wave.
Created by Francis Farley (a physicist) and Rod Rainey of Atkins Oil and Gas, the 200 meter long Anaconda device is designed to sit in 40 to 100 meter deep water and generates around 1MW of electricity per year-enough to power around 2000 homes.
The ‘snake’ is closed on both ends and filled with water which is affected by the outside pressures surrounding it. As waves push the water in the snake from one end to the other, energy is absorbed. The Anaconda website describes the process in a little more detail: “The velocity of the bulge wave in the tube and the waves in the sea is the same; then the wave energy is transferred gradually to the tube. At the bow, the wave squeezes the tube and starts a bulge running. But as it runs the wave runs after it, squeezing more and more, so the bulge gets bigger and bigger. The bulge runs in front of the wave where the slope of the water (pressure gradient) is highest. In effect the bulge is surfing on the front of the wave.”
More technical information on the device can be found in the Atkins research article.
The idea behind the snake was to create a clean energy harvesting device, with little environmental impact and a low production cost. At 4 cents per kWh, this Anaconda made from cheap materials like rubber and plastic is relatively affordable to make and easy to install.
Professor Chaplin, leader of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) that funded the Anaconda project is quoted saying that “The Anaconda could make a valuable contribution to environmental protection by encouraging the use of wave power. A one-third scale model of the Anaconda could be built next year for sea testing and we could see the first full-size device deployed off the UK coast in around five years’ time.”