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Published on May 6th, 2009 | by Tina Casey


Wave Power Electricity from Swell Fuel Could Help Revive Coral Reefs

May 6th, 2009 by  

Swell Fuel ocean wave power device could help save coral reefs.


An unlikely savior may be coming to the rescue of the planet’s beleaguered coral reefs: Chris Olson, the founder and inventor of Swell Fuel wave powered electricity generators.  Olson has been building and testing small-scale floatable energy converters for a number of years, and they may prove ideal providers of the the low-voltage charge that seems to help coral reefs regenerate.

Wave Power Electricity from Swell Fuel: Smaller is Better

Olson may be on to something with his emphasis on small, lightweight units capable of generating 1,00 watts.  They can be linked in a sort of offshore “farm” to scale up, and for maintenance purposes their small size makes them easy to handle.  That’s a clear advantage when you compare Swell Fuel to another company’s rather more ambitious 21 megawatt wave power installation off the coast of Portugal, which was abruptly cancelled after buoyancy problems and other difficulties arose in the first three of its 22 planned wave power energy converters.

Swell Fuel’s Trick is in the Lever

Olson’s patented wave power converter is essentially a buoy that supports a lever or “point absorber,” which moves up and down with the waves. The necessary gears and generator double as a counterweight, and the entire device is designed to shift into a protective position during stormy weather or extreme high tides.  The “Trojan,” Swell Fuel’s latest prototype, features additional advances.

Swell Fuel, Phone Home

Until now the primary interest in Texas-based Swell Fuel has been anywhere but Texas.  Olson’s customers are primarily overseas.  Mars Symbioscience is testing Swell Fuel’s Lever Operating Pivoting Float in Indonesia.  Samkun Powertec of South Korea is also testing a Swell Fuel wave power unit, as is a power company in El Salvadore.  Olson is eager to tap the home market in the U.S. and he may not have long to wait.  The small-scale Swell Fuel units could be ideal for taking resorts and small coastal communities off-grid.  That could include armed forces installations, too, as the U.S. military ramps up efforts to shrink its carbon bootprint.

As for larger communities, San Francisco is looking at wave power to provide green collar jobs as well as electricity.  With federal funding finally promised for the long awaited ARPA-E transformative energy program, new grants for developing wave power could be on the horizon elsewhere in the U.S., too.

Swell Fuel and Coral Reefs

Somewhat ironically, Swell Fuel wave power units could also be useful for offshore oil rig platforms, a location being tested by Samkun Powertec.  We greenies would prefer to see them bobbing alongside other kinds of offshore installations such as marine research facilities, houseboats, pleasurecraft, and the like.

Swell Fuel’s wave power units look especially promising as a possible provider of electricity to restore coral reefs. Electrically charged metal canopies are being used in various parts of the globe to help restore small areas of coral reef to health, most notably in Bali.  A town in Flordia has also recently started an electricity-based coral reef restoration project. So far, the lack of an inexpensive, low-emission power supply has limited the scale of the restoration efforts, and Swell Fuel’s wave power units could provide the ideal solution.

Image courtesy of Swell Fuel


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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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