MBARI Recovered Wave Powered Buoy

In early January 2015, a team of MBARI engineers, led by Andy Hamilton, recovered an experimental buoy that creates electrical energy from ocean waves.

This power buoy had been deployed six miles southwest of Moss Landing Harbor for 131 days which was also the longest deployment out at sea.

The power buoy has been in development for six years, and has been deployed and recovered six times over the past four years.

The current version of the power buoy can generate 300 to 400 watts of power during average wave activity, and up to 1,000 watts during storm conditions.

For this experiment, the system was anchored to the seafloor using a heavy anchor (not pictured in the illustration) to keep the buoy from drifting toward shore. The design also incorporated a stronger tether and a new plate design with built-in flaps to help alleviate stress on the power converter and tether during storms.

The power buoy is still in an experimental stage, but once it is perfected, it will help address one of the most persistent challenges in oceanography—powering research instruments and undersea robots. There is currently no cost-effective way to power underwater equipment aside from batteries, which are expensive and have a limited lifetime.

During the coming year the engineering team will improve the electrical AC-to-DC converter of the power buoy in order to improve the overall efficiency of the system. Hamilton’s team plans to deploy the buoy again in the fall.

Image: Sonia Vargas/MBARI
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