A British engineer, Alvin Smith, has developed a simple system, called Searaser, which uses ocean wave energy to produce electricity on demand – including so-called baseload power – even at times when the sea is calm.
The system is based on a two-part pump. The bottom part of the pump is anchored to the ocean floor. The top part moves up and down with the motion of the waves and drives a piston within a cylinder in the bottom section. This action is used to pump water to a reservoir on a coastal cliff or hilltop.
Water from the reservoir is released as required to drive a conventional hydroelectric turbine.
As well as the ability to produce electricity at any time, the system avoids having complex equipment, such as turbines, exposed to the harsh conditions of the ocean.
A prototype system has been developed and has succeeded in pumping water to a height of 50 metres. The full-sized system will be able to pump water to a height of 200 metres. The developers of the system claim that a single, full-sized system will be able to supply sufficient electricity to power 470 households.