21 November 2013 

WATCH A Wave Ahead here. 

CAPE TOWN: The towering kelp forest in a central tank at the Two Oceans Aquarium is stirred into perpetual swaying motion by an artificial wave driven by a mechanical plunger in the far corner of the tank. Looking at this constant movement in the water, aquarium technical manager Mike de Maine thought: how do we capture that energy and make it do something useful for us?

And so, the aquarium’s technical team built a tilted box at water surface level, with a PVC chimney coming out the top of it. Each time the water sloshes up into the box, it forces air through the chimney at as much 100 km per hour, which drives a tiny wind turbine inside the pipe. As the wave recedes, the vacuum created inside the box sucks air back down the chimney, driving the turbine once more.

The electrical output of the turbine is enough to fire up the aquarium’s LED-lit signage and some of its educational videos which play on loop for visitors.

It’s a small project, but has massive educational potential. Simply by paying attention to the world around them, the aquarium team saw energy going to ‘waste’ in the system, and designed a small and relatively simple way to harness that energy using basic materials and in-house human skills.

This kind of innovative thinking lies at the heart of communities finding solutions for themselves, as they grapple with climate change – both in terms of living with the impacts of an altered climate on their lives, as well as finding alternative energy solutions for a low-carbon future.

The Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) joined the Two Oceans Aquarium and its partner organisation Project 90 by 2030 this week to celebrate another year of the organisation's work to ‘inspire a low-carbon generation’, at the launch of 'A Wave Ahead'. Project 90 by 2030 and the aquarium have an ongoing partnership where they work together to find alternative energy solutions for the popular tourist destination. The turbine-driving wave box is the latest innovation to be unveiled by the partnership.

EMG acknowledges the need for this kind of local-level solution-seeking to empower communities to find ways to move towards a low-carbon future.

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