Ocean Wave Energy Company

About Us

Walk ten cents one mile, down the wooded hill path, and return with paper bag containing nine penny candies or four and a nickel chocolate bar. 1960’s youngster scruples forbade throwing down even a single "Atomic Fireball” wrapper. The shiny plastic was alien to nature. Unaware of persistent local influences descended from whaling industry roots, every time going the longer Shore Road past beach and hillside free-flowing cold spring water pipe, mind wondered why a petroleum distribution terminal existed at such beautiful harbor spot. Fifty years later, large storage tanks were removed, soil remediated, and a beach park is established. Yet childhoods’ Xiphosura horseshoe crab armies did not return. Harbor head laboratory visits, where the double helix shape of DNA was uncovered, frequently appeased playgroup or lone curiosity about shoreside biology. BC “Before Computer” captivations preceded the AD “After Digital” world. “Power Fuel Pellets” marginally propelled neutrally buoyant "Power Sub” toy submarines. Tub and pond ripples rocked battery powered boat models. "Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” rack, pawl, and trip-spring ratchet head pop determined the loser. "Tip-It” games instructed offset loads balancing. A book-writing grandfather, directly above, endured basement reciprocating pogo stick springy noise and whirring workbench grinding wheel. Slow and faster handle rotation through gearing induced high wheel velocity. Letting go or turning handle the opposite direction disengaged a clutch so continuing wheel rotation- a “flywheel effect” more momentous than turning upside-down bicycle chain wheel pedals. Science class impressed frog and fetal pig dissections, magnets, motor kits, and structural failure movies. Visceral influences remain from viewing 1937’s “Oh, the humanity”, as diesel and hydrogen combustion eviscerated the Hindenburg airship, and the 1940 Tacoma Narrows bridge over-resonation.

Ripples of water wave familiarity imbibed swimming, standing on submerged horizontal kick-boards then observing their shimmying ascent to hydroface (water hydrogen/oxygen - air oxygen interface), and tiny plastic boat mucking about in pond water while mesmerized by friendly Terrapene box turtle buoyancy control. Early wave encounters accompanied running on rocking finger piers, canoeing, sailing in beamy Woodpussy or cutting Blue Jay, rafted-up relative motions, skiing along chop waters, and small power boat wave surfing to save petroleum. At the gas dock, occasional drippings dispersed spellbinding kaleidoscopic water colors and attractive foul smells that felt innately wrong- like candy wrapper litter. Way forward in the bow of an Atlantic sailboat, where isolated from grandfather’s frantic racing crew, slamming shook and rolled below deck. There, like a carnival ride, young bones gleefully absorbed heaving fiberglass hull impacts. Hydroface rocked leaky dinghies adrift and reciprocating hand pumps were essential equipment. Wave powered versions were pondered and, decades later, used at mooring for expelling water from a tired Beetlecat wood sailboat- similar in size to one half of a sideway, smallest OWEC® buoy.

New York City, 1960’s
Contrasting idyllic experience, on the train or auto jammed ride between New York City, nature’s colorful spectrum dissolved from vivid carbon sunsets to shades of brown and gray. Family formality required wearing dark suits but there was refusal to don business hat. Later comprehended, natty style cloaked descending industrial pollutants. Daily radio smog alerts issued in addition to traffic gridlock, war dead, and heroin overdose reports. The City since transformed as most manufacturing dispersed to outlying regions and countries. Still, why? A grandmother regularly discussed impending environmental problems. Motivated by the 1969 Santa Barbara, California oil spill, we friends cleaned more than roads during first Earth Day, 1970. Smashing glass bottles in barrels satisfied something youngster in addition to recycling’s reason. One friend’s related career is outlined in 8 May 2009 Newsletter entry. “The Last Whole Earth Catalogue” 1971 edition coalesced philosophies, methods, and materials for off-grid living including geodesic domes, passive solar buildings, and Darius “eggbeater” rotor, vertical axis wind turbines. Renewable energy notions gained traction, during the 1973 oil crisis, but application was discouraged by high end architecture employers. Living in Hawaii, 1976, turbulent effects of immense North Shore breakers imprinted lasting impressions as they slammed this thrilled, bad, bodysurfer’s cognition in sand. Offshore, by diving down just in time, monsters’ brunt passed overhead.

With sketchbook and R. Buckminster Fuller’s “Synergetics” opus always at hand, 1978, influential lessons applied to 20 year old architecture student developing interests in kinematic constructions. RISD Rhode Island School of Design architecture and structural engineering Professor Wilbur Yoder initiated cooperative effort with URI-OE University of Rhode Island ocean engineering Professor Tadeusz Kowalski and students. The "Ocean Habitat" studio focused on designing living and research structures at shore, to deeper ocean, above or about hydroface, and in submerged environs of the water column to seafloor. Perceived was need for developing local power. Beyond basic physical considerations and examples of ocean industry, the Professors described minerals mining, minimal state-of-the-art efforts in the nascent marine renewable energy field, and possible hydrogen production from seawater. Effects of sea level lowering were considered, as result of liquid processing to gases, despite some water displacement offsets from floating technology installations. Ocean energy device penetration paled in such vast realm. Then, “SLR” acronym commonly referred to single lens reflex film cameras. By 1990's the expression began wider association to sea level rise.

Sketches investigated floating wind energy converters though abandoned in favor of denser wave energy. Now steady stronger winds invite bottom-mounted turbines that feature larger 728 foot (222 meter) diameter rotors comprising 354 foot (108 meter) length blades. Deeper floating mono-towers also support larger rotors, powerhouse quarters, and electric transfer to seafloor substation export cables. Spread farm arrays reduce wake effect. Four basic stabilizer types connect tall towers to seafloor anchors: 3-way slack moored barge; taut moored tower offset tripod semi-submersible; spar; or 3-way tension leg platform. Offset tripod type is becoming standard during 2020’s. Vertically buoyant or wide floating structures are of increasing proportions to counterbalance large rotor overturning moments and waves. Upper limit crosses when costs of support structures and displaced water exceed generation equipment value. Rotor sweep, wind wake, vibration, and noise are among measurable wind conversion impacts to avian, mammalian, pelagic, and benthopelagic species. Dual-use, more squat designs incorporate marine current flow converters. Active solar energy systems were nascent and remain inappropriate for deeper water, utility-scale deployment.

BC, persistently trying to break from 45°/45°/90° static block building archetypes, ocean realm invited heavy use of 30°/60°/90° drafting triangles to explore circle-sphere based geometries. Reduced gravity induces radial growth patterns. From diatomic “seed” and species, all manner colorful and wondrous radial outbursts demonstrate nature’s elegant water world creations. Sphere encloses most volume with least surface area. Tetrahedron, comprising four edge-connected equilateral triangles, has least volume with most surface area. Of water, itself, thermally affected H2O molecules simply portray as two sides of a triangle having two H hydrogen atoms that bond one O oxygen. In liquid state, diametrically paired elements can be interpreted to resemble jiggly proton and electron sharing tetrahedrons. Closest packed paired H2O molecule groups equally form slippery layers of interstitial octahedrons that fill liquid space. From 1979 paper, “In its purest form, water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. These atoms are attracted to one another because their union nearly satisfies an otherwise insatiable desire for molecular stabilization. Each to themselves is a lonely hunter- oxygen has only six electrons in its outer orbit but desires eight electrons. Hydrogen has but one electron. Therefore, by cooperatively overlapping its electron orbits with those of two hydrogen atoms, the oxygen atom approaches stabilization. However, stabilization will not occur due to the need for two additional electrons above and beyond what hydrogen supplies- for these electrons still "belong" to the hydrogen atom. What ensues is a dancing interaction of electrons like the cogs of meshing gears. Both hydrogen and oxygen attempt to "short-change" one another, but each is as much a failure in this quest as it is a success. Thus water remains a delicately balanced yet turbulent liquid- neither gas nor solid”. Basic electrolysis introduces additional electrons that cut into the dance. Bonds satiated, hydrogen and oxygen dissociate to electricity’s anode and cathode corners and can be accumulated.

Self-organizing building constructions also were examined. Arranged in shapes resembling octopus, photosynthetically activated spheres would interconnect with organic materials, bio-mimicking muscle tissue, that electrochemically contract or expand for swimming, standing, diving, or bottom walking. Seawater-ballasted variable buoyancy engines keep research spheres stationed at depths and heights of investigative interest. Body positions are adjusted with electromechanical or biochemical assistance. Though technologically unavailable, in 1978, basic research disclosed water waves nature. Layperson books “Waves and Beaches”, by Willard Bascom, and “Oceanography- Second Edition”, by Dr. M. Grant Gross, simply explain water and ocean processes. One diagram, showing attenuation of water particle orbital motions correspondent to depth, recalled Hawaii bodysurfing memories. Calmer regions accommodate self-stabilized components. Simple beginnings rendered preliminary design drawings of the first named OWEC® and "Ocean Wave Energy Converter".

In 1831, Michael Faraday first demonstrated electricity by passing magnets through a tube of copper wire coils. Fundamental design concepts for simplest wave energy conversion methods arrived at self-referencing modular networks of such LEG linear electrical generator types. The wave-driven LEG comprises buoy and shaft carrying several closely spaced permanent magnets. With like poles facing, North to North and South to South, magnetic forces influence stator of counter-wound wire coils wrapped in tubes near around magnets. As described in OWECO Newsletter 1970's timeline, table tennis ball, rod, tube, and plate sketch models were first tested at Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay side. Water ripples raised and lowered the ball floats and rods while the sea anchored plate kept submerged tubes relatively stationary. Energy conversion result, coinciding with attendance at an intensive three day Buckminster Fuller seminar, prodded strong notions of career change from architecture. Within three weeks of inventing OWEC®, adverse effects of combusted petroleum’s leaking automobile exhaust caused a seminar attendee friend's death. She was of the kindest and becoming top level graphic designer. Carbon monoxide ingestion induced inventor’s coma, drawing arm thrombosis, and since consciousness a persistent short term memory deficit. Summer’s occupational and physical therapy endured pain, padded eating utensils, and alternate hand writing. August dexterity sufficiently improved to practice architectural drafting at former employer’s office. Still recovering, RISD permitted an independent course to develop the OWEC® design. First patent application, an analysis, construction of three OWEC® mechanical models, and preliminary mapping of global deployment sites, through the 1979 Oil Crisis, led to on-time graduation and U.S. Patent 4,232,230 issuance in 1980. Quest continues to use non-polluting electrical generation means, devoid of carbon dioxide and specifically carbon monoxide process gases, that from expanding seawater produce fresh water, oxygen, and large storages of hydrogen gas for transportation, grid balancing, and standalone applications.