Anaconda wave energy converter in final testing at QinetiQ's ship tank

06 May 2009
The UK’s dependence on energy from non-renewable sources is being challenged by a new wave energy converter called Anaconda that mimics the action of a sea snake. Now in final proof of concept testing at QinetiQ's facilities near Gosport, Hampshire - Anaconda is producing energy data at an estimated cost that is excitingly low and as such may offer a serious and cost effective alternative in the delivery of future clean energy supplies.

The Anacondas – up to 200 metres long and made almost entirely of rubber - could each be capable of generating 1 MW of power; typical farms of 50 could create enough electricity to fuel 50,000 homes.

Anaconda is developed by double Queen’s Award winners, Checkmate Group. Chairman Paul Auston said: “The UK is known for its engineering excellence and politicians from all parties have been keen to challenge companies to come up with renewable energy projects that can be sold around the world. With Anaconda we have an invention that changes conventional thinking and it can help to meet government targets for cutting CO2 by providing renewable wave energy from our coastal waters. It will also help cement the UK’s world leading position in this technology.”

“We’ve seen excellent results in scale model testing, and now we are now gearing up to attract the necessary investment to develop Anaconda and begin producing the first full sized units for ocean testing within the next three years.”

The first field of Anacondas could be in commercial production and start deployment off the UK coastline by 2014. Anchored to the seabed and floating just beneath the surface, each Anaconda is continually squeezed by passing ocean waves. These waves form bulges in the water-filled tube and travel down its length developing the power to drive a turbine in the tail. The electricity created would be captured and cabled ashore.

The original idea came from Professor Rod Rainey, a chief engineer with engineering design consultants Atkins. He said: “The beauty of wave energy is its consistency. However, the problem holding back wave energy machines is they tend to deteriorate over time in the harsh marine environment. Anaconda is non mechanical: it is mainly rubber, a natural material with a natural resilience and so it has very few moving parts to maintain.”

Early stage research & development was supported by the Carbon Trust’s Marine Energy Accelerator (MEA) which helped identify and tackle key development challenges. They said Anaconda ‘has the potential to deliver breakthrough reductions in the cost of energy’ and that ‘it could represent the next generation of marine renewable energy’. Based on their MEA study they said the projected costs of Anaconda could represent a significant improvement over the best current renewable energy devices.

Anaconda is now in the final stage of exhaustive proof of concept testing at a 270 metre wave test tank run by QinetiQ in Gosport, Hampshire. The QinetiQ ship tank is the UK’s largest and was used to simulate the strength and frequency of ocean waves the device may encounter.

The targets set by the government are that the UK should source 20% of its entire electricity needs from all renewable sources by 2020. Anaconda has the potential to make a significant contribution to this target. With World wide patents, British designed and manufactured, Anaconda could be exported or licensed for use across the world.

Other potentially rich coasts include the USA and South American western seaboards, South Africa, Australia, parts of Malaysia, Japan, New Zealand, and the western facing coasts of Europe. As well as being a significant export opportunity for British Industry it should create a sizable number of British jobs in the renewable sector. Smaller versions of Anaconda that could also be co-located with off-shore wind farms – where they could piggy-back the energy collection grid.

The Anaconda team welcomes the recent backing by all the major political parties for renewable energy projects and especially the willingness to offer investment to connect offshore power projects with the energy grid.

Illustration of the Anaconda device    Illustration of the Anaconda device

Background on QinetiQ's facilities and new investment

Also building on the £150m Maritime Strategic Capabilities Agreement signed in September 2008 – which guarantees the Ministry of Defence access to key maritime facilities and technical support through to at least 2023 – QinetiQ today announced that it will be investing over £10m over the next few years to enhance and future‑proof its test facilities near Gosport. These facilities include the ocean basin and ship towing tank, used for testing physical models of ships and submarines plus other marine devices such as Anaconda and other marine energy generators for both defence and increasingly commercial customers.

Initial work includes an upgrade to the rotating arm control system to deliver more accurate speed control and data gathering in the 120m x 60m ocean basin. The largest freshwater tank in Europe, it is used to assess the manoeuvrability of scale ship and submarine models in different sea conditions. The drive motors and control system on the towing carriage in the 270m x 12m ship tank are also being upgraded as part of the contract to further enhance accuracy and reliability. Manchester based Cussons Technology has been appointed as the prime contractor and Portsmouth company IMS (Industrial Maintenance Services) will undertake installation of both systems. Other planned upgrades include work on the control drive and data systems in the tanks.

“We are actively recruiting key skilled staff, investing in our people and investment in the facilities is already paying dividends,” stated Iain Kennedy, head of QinetiQ’s maritime consultancy. “In addition to supporting Royal Navy fleet development on projects like the two new aircraft carriers, QinetiQ is increasingly working with commercial organisations, so helping others to save lives, time and money at sea.”

The RNLI has recently been using the facilities to support the design of its new FCB2 lifeboat and marine renewable energy companies are testing environmentally friendly wave and tidal energy devices. Wolfson Unit, which undertakes America's Cup and superyacht testing continue to make use of the facilities and QinetiQ is successfully attracting new commercial business which has meant working weekends to keep up with demand. More information – available under ‘Facilities’ at
QinetiQs towing tank

QinetiQ People Who Know How
Anaconda wave energy converter in final testing at QinetiQ's ship tank