BiOscillator – Biological and Regulatory Issues for a novel Type of Wave Energy Converter

Supervisor: Craig Stevens (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Wellington, New Zealand)
Earth’s climate is changing and its main stressors are driven largely by human activities. So what are we doing to stop it? In this thesis a new and sustainable wave energy convertor (WEC) called the BiOscillator is presented. The main difference between this novel approach and traditional WECs is the use of biological components to capture the energy of the waves, while the more fragile parts of the device remain deeper in the water column and are thus less exposed to high energy. A literature review on New Zealand’s seaweeds and marine mollusc was performed to identify the most suitable species for the BiOscillator. The second part of this thesis tries to find a suitable methodical and integrated instrument to assess and evaluate the impacts of the BiOscillator. Lastly, a small tank experiment was conducted to observe how biofouling works on five different substrates. The first part identifies that the most suitable species for the BiOscillator in New Zealand waters are Macrocystis Pyrifera (giant kelp) and Perna canaliculus (green mussel). The second part shows how a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) can be used as an instrument to plan, address and manage all the relationships and effects between a WEC, society and environment. The impacts evaluation was based on a literature review showing that some of the priorities should focus on marine mammals’ migrations, water circulation patterns, habitat change, and fisheries/recreational activities restriction. The third part presents a small biofouling experiment, which showed that the highest dry weight was recorded in stainless steel and aluminum while the substratum with the least amount of biofouling and the smallest growth was found in the titanium plates. It is a first approximation for possible future experiments, regarding possible materials for the BiOscillator. The goal behind all of this research is to contribute and foster the idea of designing a new type of WECs. This introduces a new era of WECs, where the devices are more mindful with their surrounding ecosystems, incorporate other economic incentives by merging aquaculture with electricity generation and even bring positive effects to the environment, while reducing the common negative impacts of the traditional WECs.