Having noted that a cork bobs around in water, research scientists set about designing a machine which could convert wave power into electricity. Manchester University hydrodynamics professor and inventor Peter Stansby (pictured below) came up with the Manchester Bobber – a rig with semi-submerged floats which move up and down with the passing of waves operating a pulley which spins a fly-wheel connected to an induction electricity generator.
Over the last couple of years 1/100 scale (2004) and 1/10 scale (September 2005) operational models have been tested extensively and the results have been very positive.
When scaled up to commerical dimensions a rig like the one illustrated above could generate an average of 5 MW – more than the maximum power output of the World’s largest offshore wind turbines – with outputs far in excess of 5 MW possible in heavy seas.
The Manchester Bobber
One advantage of the Manchester Bobber over other wave power generarators is the simplicity of the system and its robust nature. Only the floats come into contact with the water with all mechnical and electrical components housed safely above the surface of the water on the rig. This makes maintenance far easier, cheaper, and less frequently required. In addition, the floats can rapidly be filled with water in heavy storms to reduce the magnitude of the oscillations and protect the system from damage.
Pictured below is the 1/10 scale drive train used in testing the Manchester Bobber prototype system. This converts the up and down oscillations of the floats in the water into rotational energy which is passed through a gear-box to the electricity generator.
Useful Manchester Bobber Links
A 3 minute webcast entitled Unsung Heroes The Manchester Bobber from July 2006 is available to watch online. Presented by John Loughhead, it includes Prof. Nick Jenkins, and Prof. Peter Stansby describing the development and operation of the Manchester Bobber system.