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Inventor powers to finish line with wave system

BY this time next year, Perth inventor Alan Burns hopes to be generating electricity from 15 metres below the ocean’s surface.

Mr Burns, the chairman of minerals and technology company Carnegie Corporation and oil explorer Hardman Resources, is overseeing the development of the Croc Wave Energy Generation System – an undersea structure that uses wave energy to drive a turbine to produce electricity.

To date, Mr Burns, through his private company Crocodile Science Corporation, has spent about $250,000 on the Croc Wave, including design work, engineering, and patent research. But, with this moderate investment, he has taken his invention to a stage where he expects the public and investment community will soon be able to recognise its potential.

Last year Mr Burns launched his steam-driven Marine Drive propulsion system, which was later sold to Pursuit Dynamics, a company listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market.

Pending shareholder approval, Carnegie Corporation intends to acquire a 50 per cent interest in the new project by issuing Mr Burns with 25 million fully paid ordinary shares in the company.

He will retain the other 50 per cent holding which, with his holdings in Carnegie, will ensure he controls the Croc Wave’s immediate future.

The project is awaiting the granting of a provisional patent, which is expected to be approved in the next six months, and commercial discussions with Western Power are anticipated to begin in the next few months.

The idea of generating electricity from wave movements is not new. Indeed, Mr Burns’ research into patents found one device dating from 1976, while many were conceptualised in the 1980s.

But where the Croc Wave differs from past attempts is that is lies on the seabed rather than floating on the surface.

Its concrete superstructure will be towed out to sea, where ballast tanks will be filled with water to sink it, after which sand will be pumped in to provide further stability.

At this point a rubber membrane about one centimetre thick is attached, and the main tank areas are filled with air compressed to the same pressure as the seawater above.

Electricity is produced when a wave comes up a ramp on one side of the device and over the top, squashing the rubber pad down, and forcing the air down to drive a high-speed turbine. When the wave passes, the internal air pressure restabilises and continues to drive the turbine.

The power generated will be distributed via an undersea cable to the mainland.

The unit should produce about 1.5 megawatts of power, for a production capacity of 13 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year. At a wholesale price of 10 cents per kWh, production would provide annual revenue of $1.3 million, for an initial capital cost of less than $1.5 million.

Mr Burns said that, through quantifiable research and his own experience as a keen diver, he had found the bottom of a wave is where much of its energy is found. The forward-facing ramp concentrates that energy into a smaller body of water.

“Even on what’s perceived to be a waveless day, we will get a wave mounting the top of this and then falling back down the other side,” Mr Burns said.

“We’ve done studies along the coast here, and even on a calm day we’ll get about a two-metre wave.

“On the surface you’ll see quite a big swell coming towards you, then they’ll build up into a mound and then just collapse and there’ll be slack water at the back of it.”

The bonus of this system is that is basically an artificial reef, and with Perth’s surfing beaches becalmed for much of the year, Mr Burns believes many surfers will be drawn to the promise of consistent and sizeable waves. Fish, and therefore fishermen, will also be attracted to any Croc Wave location.

Once the prototype device is built and proved to work, Burns said Carnegie will license the product out to other companies, while also selling its own power to Western Power, thus giving the company a steady revenue stream.

In related news, Carnegie will buy back 13 million of its shares from a non-related party, Caribbean Investors. The company will exchange 382,353 shares in London-listed Pursuit Dynamics plc for its own stock, giving Caribbean Investors one Pursuit share for every 34 Carnegie shares. Carnegie then intends to cancel the bought-back shares to reduce its total issued capital.

In 2001 Pursuit Dynamics issued Carnegie with about 5.5 million shares as payment for Carnegie’s Marine Drive project – another Alan Burns invention.

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