search   index   by subject   by year   biographies   books  SF Activities  shop museum   contact

The Utilization of Wave Power

When Balboa discovered the Pacific, he stood knee-deep in the placid waters at Panama, and the name given the great ocean was appropriate to the locality. As far north as California, however, it is a misnomer, for the waves of that ocean are there large all the summer, owing to the prevailing strong winds, and the winter storms off shore and near shore create large rollers constantly. It is now proposed to utilize this movement of the sea along that coast. Interesting experiments are being carried on at the beach near San Francisco, north of the Cliff House, with that view, it being the ultimate object to supply the city with some 50,000 or 60,000 horsepower for industrial purposes, water being used instead of steam. The experiments are being carried out by a local engineer. The idea is to raise sea water through the medium of a pump operated by the waves, to a height of about 350 feet, whence it can be directed into the city and the power used for elevators, mills, manufactories, etc.

The apparatus used is described as exceedingly simple. A bridge has been built across a chasm into which the waves roll, and from the bridge is suspended a strong frame carrying a swinging arm or lever, the lower end of which carries a float or paddle immersed in the water. This lever or arm has its upper end suitably connected by rods that extend to a heavy crosshead. The lever is 32 feet long. The crosshead is connected with the plunger of a pump of 12 inches diameter and 13 feet stroke. The pump is 24 feet above low-water level. As the lower arm of the lever moves to and fro with the action of the waves, it operates the pump, drawing the water from the sea and forcing it to the reservoir on the hill. The float on the submerged end of the lever is intended to be only about one foot under water. It is not placed on the long rollers, but works in the water inside the first line of breakers, so that it obtains the force which dashes the waves against the rocks. The operating lever swings on the arc of a circle, and can readily be withdrawn from the water as occasion demands, the power required to do this being furnished by a water-wheel.

It is intended, provided the experiments are satisfactory, to establish a line of these pumps and levers. Other pumps of 16 or 17 feet stroke, will be put up. Full stroke is seldom taken, the great length being given to provide for emergencies, so as not to break the pumps. At present the latter are pumping through pressure-valve and meter to determine the power. The force of the waves to the square foot is very large, and those engaged in the enterprise are of opinion that storm waves will not seriously affect the motion. The high tides are said to make no difference either. The pumps, it may be stated, are placed horizontally.

San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser
January 8, 1887