Interview with Kristin Andersen
As a young girl Kristin Andersen sailed the waves. Now, as Vattenfall’s localisation expert in the Ocean Energy research programme, she is putting waves to work again, generating electricity for the future. “Wave energy has great potential,” she says.
A mild summer breeze caresses the coast of northern Bohuslän, in western Sweden. Kristin Andersen, part of Vattenfall’s Ocean Energy research team, gazes out over the sea. Today it is at peace, but she knows what forces lie hidden in the deep blue ocean. “I grew up here,” she says. “I’ve seen the changes in the sea from my living room window. It can switch from calm to a gale in just a few hours.”
Andersen’s task today is to make electrical energy from the power of the waves that bore the keel of her boat while she was young. She is responsible for localisation issues in the Vattenfall Ocean Energy research programme. And it turns out that the coast where she grew up offers excellent conditions for generating electricity. “The potential of wave power is promising,” Andersen says. “But a number of challenges still remain. For example, we do not yet know what concept of wave energy conversion is the best, technically.”
Against that background, Vattenfall is supporting several external wave power development projects in northern Europe. The goal is to take this development forward, towards commercial implementation. “The concepts are totally different,” she says. “The technological development is taking a different route to that of wind power, where a type of wind turbine has become the dominant design solution. In wave power, we have not come up with our ‘wind turbine’ yet.”
The company that is testing its technology concept near where Andersen grew up is called Seabased AB and is headed by Mats Leijon, a professor at Uppsala University. In partnership with Vattenfall and others, the company is building a pilot facility on Sweden’s west coast. The company has sited a cluster of linear generators on the sea bed at Islandsberg, off Lysekil. Each generator is linked to a buoy on the surface.
When the buoys move, electricity is generated. Andersen’s eyes were opened to the possibilities of wave energy when she was an engineering student in Leijon’s department. That, in turn, opened the door to a job at Vattenfall. “My specialisation is in finding optimal locations for siting facilities for wave energy,” she says.
For her work, Andersen uses computerbased geographical information systems – digital maps with information on the conditions in a particular area. “We estimate that in a square kilometre we can install between 10 and 30 MW, depending on the wave climate in the area,” she says. “The electricity generated from an area of this size is enough to supply a small town with household electricity.”
Wave power is not a new idea. The first patents are said to date back to the 16th century. During the 1970s and 1980s several research projects were conducted in Sweden and other countries.
In Sweden, the total potential for wave energy is calculated at 10 TWh, which corresponds to 7 percent of the country’s electricity consumption.
It is estimated that in Western Europe as a whole, the total potential for wave power is 2,000 TWh.
Wave energy projects involve the following phases of development:
- Idea and modelling
- Basin-testing of model
- Testing of model in real conditions
- Demonstration facility with fullscale models
- Commercial facility