Waves can solve world's energy woes: inventor

Doug Crets

August 22, 2005 (excerpt)

With crude oil prices soaring, a local inventor says wave power is the SAR's answer for cheap and clean electricity.

Lucien Gambarota has worked in his lab for 15 years, inventing devices of every shape and function, including a candy that lights up when you chew it. Now he claims he has developed a process that can solve the world energy crisis by harnessing the hidden power of ocean waves.

He isn't alone. Energy companies in Norway, Scotland and the United States are researching wave energy. Aqua Energy Group, a Seattle, Washington company, will start an experimental version of a device this year. The United Kingdom has designated a section of its offshore areas for developing ``wave farming.''

Gambarota's device uses wave action to crank a uni-directional gear, like a bike pedal, generating the power.

``A 10 centimeter wave can send a jet of water twenty meters into the air,'' he says, explaining how the force could generate electricity in water-driven turbines.

University of Hong Kong mechanical engineering researcher Dennis Leung showed The Standard a prototype of Gambarota's device, in which a thin metal tube connects small PVC buoys, one pair per segment, to a string of cable that would transfer power to land. The equation is simple: mass of water movement increased by number of segments and height of waves equals energy. And lots of it, potentially.

CLP's Ngan Chi-cheung, an innovation architect at the company's research institute, says it's not CLP's job to develop the technology to take advantage of wave power, which he says is costly. ``The technology is not proven,'' he says. ``We need to understand the feasibility before we can commit any new figures.''

Hong Kong depends entirely on imports of energy resources like coal, natural gas and oil.

``Our aim is to have between one and two per cent of Hong Kong's total electricity supply met by power generated from renewable sources by the year 2012,'' said Monica Ko, a spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Department.

Ngan showed information available on the Internet that suggests wave power energy would have an initial startup cost of about US$4,300 (HK$33,540) a kilowatt hour. CLP's Castle Peak plant has capacity of 4,100 megawatts. Using Ngan's figures, that would mean it could cost upwards of US$17.6 billion to start up a wave energy platform to power the Kowloon peninsula. ``CLP is a user of technology, we are not a developer of technology,'' Ngan says.

Christine Loh, founder of think-tank Civic Exchange, told Chief Executive Donald Tsang on August 18 that Hong Kong is not doing enough to research generating clean, cheap energy.

``This clearly is an area where Hong Kong has the potential to be a national leader in efficiency management but has not yet grasped the opportunity,'' she said.

Loh thinks the electricity suppliers could generate new methods of creating electricity more efficiently and then sell those devices to the world.

Renewable resources research features in a small - 5 percent - part of CLP's power production.



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