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Wave power slithers ahead

Anaconda prototype in action

By Hamish Johnston

Last year we told you about the Anaconda — a giant rubber tube that could generate about a megawatt of electricity from ocean waves.

The mouth of the beast faces the wave front, which creates a bulge in the tube that grows as it propagates to the tail. There, it is converted to electricity by a conventional turbine.

This morning on BBC Radio 4 I heard an interview with Paul Auston of the UK-based company Checkmate Seaenergy — which has been testing an 8-metre-long prototype in a wave tank owned by the defence technology company Qinetiq.

Auston told the BBC that tests prove the device works and the firm is now looking for more cash so it can build full-sized Anacondas — 200 metres long — for testing in the ocean.

Apparently, an Anaconda can provide electricity for about 1000 homes.

In the spirit of David MacKay, I reckon 6000 kilometres of tubing would be required to supply all homes in the UK with electricity.

That’s a lot of rubber — and Auston seemed to suggest that the tubes would be made from natural rubber (he didn’t say if it would be organic).

About 10 million tonnes of natural rubber is produced every year — a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that this is more than enough to make all that tubing.

So, it looks possible!

You can read a print version of the interview here

If you want to listen to the interview, it’s in the first hour of today’s programme. Unfortunately the BBC does not create snippets of first-hour interviews so you will have to listen until it comes up.

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