Wave Energy

The British Isles have the best wave energy resources on the planet. The vast uninterrupted distance the wind travels across the Atlantic ocean is among the longest in the world, and wind in turn propels waves. The average wave energy could be as much as 70KW per metre of wave well offshore. The energy Neptune is designed to capture is around 45KW per metre of wave (or 45MW per kilometre for a large wave farm). Harnessing this power to create clean, renewable energy is one of the chief targets of governments around the world.

Development History






Neptune was conceived in the 1970’s when a steep rise in the cost of oil following the “Yom Kippur” war lead to interest in renewable sources of energy in general, and wave power in particular. Several different types of wave energy converter were investigated in the UK and elsewhere. These devices were mostly floating, moored in shallow water and designed capture wave motion on or near the shoreline. Wave energy levels in the kilowatt range could be captured, but many failed to survive the hostile marine environment.


It was realised that if wave power was to become commercially attractive, attention should be focussed on the long period Atlantic swell, further off shore, in deeper water, where most wave energy is concentrated. It should also be contained within a simple stationary structure on the sea bed where it would be less vulnerable to extreme sea conditions, and respond to fluctuating sea pressure instead of wave motion. It should also use an existing method of power take off to minimise the cost of developing a secondary stage of energy conversion.


At the same time oil and gas production in the north sea was moving into deeper waters, and production facilities began to be installed on the sea bed, thereby stimulating the development of underwater inspection and maintenance procedures, all of which could be applied to submerged wave energy devices.


All of these ideas were incorporated into Neptune, and a small scale working model demonstrated the feasibility of the concept at Lancaster University. Neptune was subsequently abandoned when the price of oil declined in the early 1980’s and the Department Of Energy closed it’s wave energy research programme. The concept of submerged oscillating water columns did however attract the interest of other experimenters and mathematicians, in particular, Sir James Lighthill, FRS, formerly Lucasian Professor of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, a position held initially by Isaac Newton and now held by Stephen Hawking.


Following the discovery of global warming, the Neptune concept was revived and Neptune Energy Ltd was formed to further develop the concept. A larger scale model was tested initially at Cowes on the Isle of Wight and later at Glasgow University. More recently it has attracted the interest of Exeter and Manchester Metropolitan Universities. These studies have shown that Neptune is capable of generating significant levels of hydraulic power which is converted into electricity by a Kaplan type water turbine. Further research continues, with the aim of developing a commercially viable configuration that will attract the interest of serious investors.



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