Globalization and fierce competition in the market place has led to the outsourcing of traditional manufacturing jobs in Scandinavia to regions with lower manufacturing cost. But Swedish company Seabased, together with Finnish energy company Fortum, is trying to turn the tide with the construction of the world’s largest wave power plant. It’s hoped the plant will create a new revenue source and fresh job opportunities.
Situated on the west coast of Sweden, the plant will be the world’s largest, full-scale project of its kind. Seabased will begin with the production of buoys, generators, substations and converters at a factory in Lysekil.
Marine installation of the first 42 wave-power buoys and related equipment will be installed in late 2012. Phase-two installations are planned for 2013. When completed, the wave power plant will consist of 420 buoys, with a total output of around 10 megawatts, installed in a half-square-kilometer area.
“This will be a new major manufacturing industry in Sweden,” says Billy Jackson, CEO Seabased. “We need 30 or so employees in the workshops to meet the initial delivery of 42 units this year, but we will grow to 50 to 100 employees fairly quickly, and in a few years we’ll have 600 employees if the orders roll in as we expect.”
The technology behind the wave-power park is based on Uppsala University’s wave-power research. The concept is based on a system of unique piston-driven generators. A so-called linear generator stands on the seabed and is driven, via a rope, by a buoy on the surface. Several generators can be combined into groups, some 66 to 328 feet beneath the surface.
With the help of power electronics, the generated power is converted into direct current, which is then brought to land by means of standard cables and connected to the power grid through a DC/AC converter. This system, with buoy, rope and generator, is expected to be cheap, sturdy, environmentally benign, and will be able to withstand extreme conditions at sea.
“Wave power offers globally significant potential for next-generation energy production,” says Fortum’s Risto Andsten, vice president of renewable energy. “Fortum has got off to an early start in the development of the technology for commercial use. We have big expectations for the demonstration project in Sweden.”
Photo courtesy of Uppsala University