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Wave energy device that uses squeezed air to generate power prepared for Wales deployment

Professional Engineering

How the Bombora mWave could look fixed to a floating platform, showing the air-inflated concave cells covered with rubber membranes
How the Bombora mWave could look fixed to a floating platform, showing the air-inflated concave cells covered with rubber membranes

A wave energy converter that uses squeezed air to generate power will soon be deployed in the ocean following final tests and assembly.

Described by developer Bombora Wave Power as ‘the world’s most powerful wave energy converter’, the 1.5MW mWave device will generate power off the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales. It is currently going through final test and assembly before deployment in the £20m project, supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the Welsh government.

The novel device includes a series of air-inflated concave cells along its 75m length, covered with rubber membranes and mounted into a steel foundation structure that can be secured beneath the ocean’s surface. As waves pass overhead, air is squeezed out of each cell module in sequence, passing through one-way valves and into a duct system fitted with an axial turbine, before being recirculated to refill each of the cell modules once the wave has passed. The turbine is directly connected to a variable-speed generator to produce electricity.

The mWave has no external parts other than the rubber membrane, which is designed to extract power without complex mechanical systems. The replaceable modular design is aimed at streamlining maintenance processes, minimising downtime and maximising power output.

The cell modules can also shut down during extreme storm events, limiting the design loads and reducing capital costs.

The 900-tonne device is 15m-wide and 6m-high. Cell modules could be configured to suit either fixed-bed foundation systems near the shore or floating offshore environments, Bombora said.

“This is a really exciting phase as we gear up to deploy the world’s most powerful wave energy converter,” said Bombora COO Dave Rigg. “The project has been progressing at pace, with our specialist mWave cell membranes currently undergoing final tests, with extreme inflation and deflation cycles.”

He added: “We have applied acute attention to detail, pushing our technology way beyond the expected operational limits to ensure high performance levels, robustness and durability.

“In the coming months we will complete the final assembly process on the quayside in Pembroke Dock before loadout to the operational site at East Pickard Bay, where the mWave technology will be validated in the open ocean, advancing it to TRL (Technology Readiness Level) 7/8.”

Bombora managing director Sam Leighton said the project will help accelerate the energy transition to a net zero future. “The Pembrokeshire demonstration project aims to provide a blueprint for future multi-megawatt wave energy projects,” he said.

“It will play a crucial role proving both the reliability and competitiveness of our novel mWave technology.

“Importantly, it will also deliver key optimisation data to inform Bombora’s other world-leading initiatives including the InSpire project, which is under development with global EPC contractor, TechnipFMC. This project aims to unlock the enormous potential of hybrid floating wind and wave arrays, which could play a significant role in the future energy transition – delivering a more consistent and stable clean energy supply by combining complementary power profiles.”

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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