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~ The Research Of Ocean Wave Energy

 NORSK Wave-energy research at NTH/NTNU

The research carried out is aimed at serving as a base for the technical-industrial development work which still remains before the energy of ocean waves may be utilised for commercial energy supply to a greater extent.



Wave energy, which is a non-polluting and renewable source of energy, is created by natural conversion of part of the wind energy above the oceans. Wind energy is created by natural conversion of part of solar energy. By heating air, the sun creates winds. Winds blowing along the water surface create waves.

With both of these energy conversions, the flow of energy is concentrated (as figured in watts per square metre of area). Just below the ocean's water surface, the wave energy flow, in time-average, is typically five times denser than the wind energy flow 20 m above the sea surface, and 10 to 30 times denser than the solar energy flow.
Hence, there are good prospects for development of commercial wave-power plants, which may in the future become significant components for providing energy to many coastal nations.


Historical account of wave-power research at NTH/NTNU.
During more than three decades, since 1973, fundamental wave-power research has been carried out at the physics department of the university in Trondheim (after several reorganisation processes and name changes: at Department of Physics, NTNU, [before 1996: NTH]). After 2003, wave-energy research has been taken up at other departments of NTNU, i.a. by Centre for Ships and Ocean Structures (CeSOS) and by the Departments of Civil and Transport Engineering, of Electric Power Engineering, of Energy and Process Engineering, and of Industrial Economics and Technology Management.

In December 1973, university teacher ("førsteamanuens") Kjell Budal (1933-1989) initiated wave energy research at the Department of Experimental Physics, Norwegian Insitute of Technology (NTH). Johannes Falnes participated in the research from the beginning in 1973, and Per Magne Lillebekken from 1980, until 1998.
Seven persons have completed their doctor degree ("" or Ph.D.) thesis, within wave-power research, at NTH/NTNU, namely: Lars Christian Iversen in 1980, Åge Kyllingstad in 1982, Oddbjørn Malmo in 1984, Geirmund Oltedal in 1985, Arne Brendmo in 1995, Håvard Eidsmoen in 1996, and Torkel Bjarte-Larsson in 2005. As post doctors, they had opportunity for working on wave-power research for a certain time (between a few months and three years). Moreover, about 25 students have completed their wave-energy thesis work for completing the "sivilingeniør" or Master degree in Engineering.
In our activity with construction and laboratory testing of models, with devolopment of components for wave-power prototypes, and with technical economic assessments of wave-power plants, we had useful assistance from various departments of SINTEF and of NTH, and from various institutions and companies in Norway (i.a. in Ålesund and in Oslo) and abroad (i.a. in Trälleborg, Sweden, and in Edinburgh, Scotland). For the contract work provided by these institutions and companies, Tormod Hals, a SINTEF employee, served as our project coordinator during years 1979-83, when he had his dayly office by us at the Department of Experimental Physics.
During the years 1978-82, wave-energy research received substantial financial support from the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy ("Olje- og energidepartementet"). As the price of petroleum declined, and the public interest for problems of environment and resources decreased, during the early 1980s, the governmental financial support of wave-power research was drastically reduced after 1982. In spite of this fact, the wave-power group in Trondheim has been able to carry on a certain research activity, and maintenance of achieved knowledge and competence. The group cooperated with industrial companies, i.a. with Kværner Brug AS during eight years from 1975, and with Lysøysund Industrier AS and Brødrene Langset AS during a few years in the mid 1980s, and mid 1990s, respectively.


NTH's wave-energy group 1983-03-25.
From left: Kjell Budal, Per Magne Lillebekken, Geirmund Oltedal (Ph.D. student), Johannes Falnes, Øyvin Sømme (celebrating his completed Master degree in Engineering Physics, by treating us to a cake), Lars Christian Iversen (postdoctor), Åge Kyllingstad (postdoctor).
[Our collaborator Tormod Hals was not present on this occation.]

  Tormod Hals (left) served, during years 1979-83, as project coordinator for NTH's project for development of wave-power buoys.

Governmental funding for wave-energy R&D during years 1978-95. Funding amounts, in million NOK, are not inflation corrected.
Back (blue/grey): UK (to 1992, 1 GBP = 10 NOK approximately).
Middle (red): Norway.
Front (green): NTH, Trondheim.

(No significant increase of annual funding in Norway after 1995.)

The wave-energy research carried out in Trondheim, in particular during the first ten years after 1973, is of good reputation internationally. This is mainly due to basic theoretical research and, in particular, to proposed methods for optimum control and phase control of wave-energy converters.

by J. Falnes and P.M. Lillebekken, Department of Physics

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