Previous attempts had been conceived but were subject to damage by the largest waves: 90 foot swells that come in hundred-year cycles. A WaveBob can self-adjust to bear whatever wave energy surrounds it, and is designed to stand even the most massive waves. The technology involves two buoyant bodies (bobs), one light enough to float on the water’s surface, the other, just heavy enough to rest suspended below surface. The two bobs are connected by a shaft. When the whole device is tossed up and down by waves, this shaft pushes and pulls a hydraulically driven dynamo inside one of the bobs. It works with waves moving in any direction.
The device’s unique adaptability comes from a remotely adjustable ballast in the upper bob. If the waves become too violent, adjusting the buoyancy of the upper bob can limit the amount of energy the device absorbs from a given wave. In theory, this allows it to survive incredibly powerful storms without being ripped to pieces. It also allows tuning for optimum efficiency. Each device is has a diameter of roughly 60 feet, and is 25 feet tall.
The company launched its first prototypes off the Galway coast in 2006, each with a capacity of 30 Kilowatts (roughly the electric consumption of three to six American homes) and plans a 250 Megawatt project for launch west of Ireland in late 2011. Since founding, WaveBob has formed partnerships with American companies Chevron, Pacific Gas and Electric, Siemens and GE, plus a number of other power providers and energy companies worldwide. They have found support through equity funding, grants from Irish government and development groups, private investors, and sale of their own wave-electric power. Their goal, however, is not to serve as a power provider but a technology company.
In 2008 WaveBob opened offices in Annapolis Maryland. The purpose of the move was to expand their operations, broaden their research and development portfolio, and have a base near the nation’s capital. The company has stated that they are working with Maryland research and technology firms, small and large, and expect further partnership opportunities in the near future. Though specific details about projects planned for North America could not yet be released, announcements are soon to be made.