Can we solve future energy and freshwater crises with the Power of Ocean Waves?

Marcus Lehmann

UC Berkeley

This project was funded on:
25 March 2014
- Wave Energy is a vast source of Renewable Energy, but is still underutilized.
- Our engineering team at UC Berkeley is developing a new Wave Energy Converter that is able to efficiently harvest this energy.
- With your support, we can continue our development towards a first pilot plant in the ocean and want to reward our Top 50 backers with special Thank-You-Packages (details at end of the page)!

What is the context of this research?

  1. Energy independence, global warming and rising energy prices demand an increase in Renewable Energies (RE).
  2. Especially on coastlines more energy is needed, due to increasingly global migration towards coastlines.
  3. Wave Energy compared to other Ocean Energies has the highest RE potential along coastlines (10% of global energy needs).
  4. Wave Energy Converters are an emerging technology that is compared with the wind turbines 15 years ago when multiple designs were competing until the three blade design converted as the standard design for a full commercial application.
  5. The main advantage of Wave Energy over Solar and Wind Energy is its high availability, reliability and higher power densities (Solar: 0.3 kW/m2, Wind: 3 kW/m2, Waves: 30 kW/m).

Here at UC Berkeley, we are working on a novel and promising design to harvest Wave Energy economically and reliably.
In our wave tank laboratory, we have developed a proof-of-concept-prototype and have successfully tested the functionality and ability of the converter to cancel waves and generate power.
Our first publication of the concept was in June 2012 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.
Since then, the concept has generated growing public interest. It was presented at the 10th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference, and has received news coverage in the MIT Technology Review and on Most recently, the project took first place at the 2013 BERC Energy Week Innovation Expo.

What is the significance of this project?

Worldwide demand for electricity is expected to double within the next 20 years. This demand, coupled with commitments to significantly reduce CO2 emissions within the same time frame, is facilitating the push for clean, socially acceptable methods of generating power.

The concept has been investigated theoretically and numerically for linear and nonlinear regimes. It has undergone extensive experimental study at our wave tank laboratory.

The converter has distinct advantages:

  1. High survivability - Due to the fact that the carpet is seabed-based, it is able to survive the strong momentum of stormy seas.
  2. Material Durability - Flexible non-corrosive material.
  3. Transportability - The system is easily moved and brought to the ocean without requiring high maintenance costs.
  4. Efficiency - Ability of high, broadband and omnidirectional absorption efficiency based on proven biomimicry from natural phenomenon.
  5. Scalability - The modular design allows the device to scale in width for setting a desired output power capacity.
  6. Hazardless - The device poses no visual pollution to the ocean surface and no collision danger to boats and sea life.

What are the goals of the project?

Our long term goal is to tap the abundant and unused resources of ocean wave power in order to contribute to the RE mix and thereby meet the future's growing energy demand in an independent and sustainable manner.

An essential step towards this goal is to fully proof the functionality of a pilot plant in the ocean. The launch is set for 2016 at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center in Newport, Oregon.

In order to reach this goal, our intermediate steps are to:

  1. Develop a 1:25 prototype and test its performance in our wave tank laboratory for multi-directional broadband waves.
  2. Identify and test materials that could perform in real ocean applications.
  3. Test possible carpet materials for fatigue and creep in simulated ocean conditions.
  4. Numerically simulate the device to determine optimal stiffness and pump placement.
  5. Develop and analyse CAD design of full scale converter


Budget Overview

The budget will be used for:
1. Hydraulic Pumps - Two competing power take-off technologies will be tested separately: a) industrially available double acting reciprocating linear cylinder pumps, and b) large scale diaphragm type pumps.

2. Carpet Material - Carpet materials will be purchased from an industry partner and expert in elastomers.

3. Wave Gages - In order to evaluate the efficiency of the prototype under various sea states, the essential values that are to be determined experimentally are the wave height before and after the device and the generated flux. This will be measured with Wave Gages and a non invasive Electromagnetic Flowmeter.

4. Magnetic Flow Meter - For high accuracy real time measurement of the system's performance, a magnetic flux measurement instrument will be purchased.

Meet the Researcher


Our team consists of Professor Reza Alam, Assistant professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering with years of experience in theoretical, computational and experimental fluid dynamics and his team of graduate and undergraduate students. Prof. Alam has years of industrial experience as the Chief Technology Officer, technical advisor and consultant to a number of wave energy companies.
The graduate researcher Marcus Lehmann, M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering and CDTM alumnus, works full time on the development and progress of this project for his PhD.


We're excited about the latest great news coverage of our project:

As a special thank you to our Top 50 Backers will be rewared with the following five exclusive packages:

Top 50 Backers - Brass Package:
Voucher for campus tour of UC Berkeley and private lab tour with researchers

Top 25 Backers - Bronze Package:
Voucher for campus tour of UC Berkeley and private lab tour with researchers
Assist researchers during experiments

Top 10 Backers - Silver Package:
Voucher for campus tour of UC Berkeley and private lab tour with researchers
Assist researchers during experiments Special acknowledgement in next conference publication

Top 5 Backers - Gold Package:
Voucher for campus tour of UC Berkeley and private lab tour with researchers
Assist researchers during experiments
Special acknowledgement in next conference publication In grave your name to our next prototype

Top 1 Backer - Platinum Package:
Voucher for campus tour of UC Berkeley and private lab tour with researchers
Assist researchers during experiments
Special acknowledgement in next conference publication
Unique hand signed poster with detailed technical drawing and sketches of the next 3D prototype


Project Backers

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Project backers