Composites are helping power infrastructure catch some waves

The power infrastructure in the United States has seen many innovations over the years thanks to composites. From wind turbine blades to composite above- and below-ground conduit, composites are the material of choice for many applications in this sector. An excellent example of this point is composite wave and tidal power generation systems that are currently being developed and tested.

Benefits offered by composite wave and tidal generators to power infrastructure

One of the major goals of the U.S. power infrastructure since the early 2000s has been to develop and implement sources of renewable energy to replace power plants that burn fossil fuel. One system that may soon be ready to help meet this goal is composite wave and tidal generators.

Wave and tidal generators, also known as tidal stream generators, are similar in concept to wind turbines. However, tidal generators operate under the surface of the water rather than catching wind. Tidal generators are designed to turn the kinetic energy created by waves and tides into electricity. Such generators are actually preferable to wind turbines in some ways because the greater density of water allows tidal generators to create electricity at much lower speeds.

Composites are key to the development of sustainable tidal stream generators. For one thing, composites provide superior corrosion resistance to systems that will spend their operational life immersed in water. This is a benefit that can’t be taken lightly considering water is one of the most corrosive forces in nature. For this reason, companies that are testing pre-production models of tidal stream generators, such as Ocean Renewable Power Co. in Portland, Maine, are building their systems entirely out of composite materials. Currently, composite tidal stream generators are being tested that are capable of producing about five megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power 750 to 1,000 homes.

These composite power generators could provide a number of benefits for the U.S. power infrastructure, including:

  • Providing sustainable power sources for isolated, off-grid communities
  • Generating renewable energy for U.S. power providers
  • Creating a network of environmentally-friendly power generators that reduces fossil fuel use

All of these benefits will make composite tidal stream generators an exciting addition to the U.S. power generation infrastructure. In fact, these in-water generators could combine with wind and solar power to help the power infrastructure move away from fossil fuels completely in the future.

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