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Renewable energy science fair project:
The effect of water depth on wave speed and energy generated

Project Information
Title: Find out if the depth of water affects wave speed that affects the power of ocean waves as a renewable source of energy
Subject: Renewable Energy
Subcategory: Water Energy
Grade level: Primary School - Grades K-3
Academic Level: Ordinary
Project Type: Experimental
Cost: Low
Awards: 2nd Place (Magna Cum Laude), Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair ($40)
Affiliation: Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair
Year: 2013
Materials: Stream tray, water, stopwatch, ruler
Description: The stream tray is filled with water to a depth of 1 cm. Then the tray is dropped from a height of 10 cm making a wave. Using the stopwatch the time the wave travels the distance of the tray is recorded. The experiment is repeated with different water depths.
Link: http://www.virtualsciencefair.org/2013/guar13l
Short Background

Wave power and depth of water

Wave power means the use of ocean surface waves and the capture of that energy to do useful work - including electricity generation, desalination, and the pumping of water (into reservoirs). It makes use of the kinetic energy of the waves that are driven by the wind.

Power from ocean surface wave motion might produce much more energy than tides. It has been tested that it is possible to produce energy from waves, particularly in Scotland in the UK. But the technology is not as well developed as other renewable energy such as wind power or solar power.

Wave energy is the transport of energy by ocean surface waves, and the capture of that energy to do useful work for example, electricity generation, water desalination, or the pumping of water (into reservoirs). Machinery able to exploit wave power is generally known as a wave energy converter (WEC).

Waves are generated by wind passing over the surface of the sea. As long as the waves propagate slower than the wind speed just above the waves, there is an energy transfer from the wind to the waves. Both air pressure differences between the upwind and the lee side of a wave crest, as well as friction on the water surface by the wind, making the water to go into the shear stress causes the growth of the waves.

Wave height is determined by wind speed, the duration of time the wind has been blowing, fetch (the distance over which the wind excites the waves) and by the depth and topography of the seafloor (which can focus or disperse the energy of the waves). A given wind speed has a matching practical limit over which time or distance will not produce larger waves. When this limit has been reached the sea is said to be "fully developed".

In general, larger waves are more powerful but wave power is also determined by wave speed, wavelength, and water density.

Oscillatory motion is highest at the surface and diminishes exponentially with depth. However, for standing waves (clapotis) near a reflecting coast, wave energy is also present as pressure oscillations at great depth, producing microseisms. These pressure fluctuations at greater depth are too small to be interesting from the point of view of wave power.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave_power

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

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Last updated: June 2013
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