Although we’ve always known it, one fact that was revealed in crystal clarity during our soon-to-be published location study is this: there is virtually no place on the oceans of this globe where you can avoid the occurrence of wind-driven waves. Wind and waves can be useful potential for energy generation and recreational sailing, but they’re troublesome in excess. They must be confronted if we are to build cities in the open sea.
One way that shore-side communities protect themselves from waves is by constructing a ‘breakwater’, which is a pile of rocks or other heavy materials that form an artificial barrier against the waves. Of course, this is not a very practical approach for a seastead in the deep ocean. But you could instead build a ‘floating breakwater’, like a floating atoll, to create a giant oasis of calm water in the center. What’s more, rather than just ‘blocking’ the waves, it just seems logical to harness the wave-energy and convert it to electrical power!
Understandably, to protect a floating city at sea, the floating breakwater must be enormous; perhaps one or two kilometers in diameter. So this is on the very long-term development list at the Institute. But even the longest journey begins with a single step, and thanks to the efforts of a pair of bright and enthusiastic interns from the University of Southampton, the Institute has taken a great leap forward in this endeavor. Elie Amar (a naval architect student) and Jorge Suarez (a mechanical engineering student) teamed their talents this past summer, scouring the internet, library collections and the patent office to compile an impressive review of technology related to floating breakwaters and wave energy conversation. To put their findings into context, they thoroughly and systematically assessed the different technologies and identified those that are the most promising for further development by the Institute. Although their report is extensive, it’s an easy read (even for non-techies) and there are lots of pictures. Check out the paper here or the slideshow here!