Graham speaks about developing a wave-powered water pump

Derek Montague editor@thelabradorian.ca
Published on September 25, 2015
Derek Montague/The Western Star
Michael Graham has spent the last few years researching inland fish farming in coastal Newfoundland, and figuring out how to use ocean waves as a power source for the farm’s water pump.

Michael Graham has an idea that is seldom talked about: generating power with the ocean’s waves.

“I feel like a fish out of water here,” quipped Graham at the Energy West Symposium in Corner Brook. “no pun intended.”

During this week’s conference, held at the Glynmill Inn, there were many representatives from the energy industry.

Most of the representatives came from areas people have become familiar with: oil and gas, wind power and solar power, to name a few.

Graham is the lead researcher of the College of the North Atlantic’s Wave Energy Research Centre in Burin. His official symposium nametag however, had him representing the “Wind Energy Research Centre;” perhaps an unintentional sign of how little is known about wave energy.

Over the years, Graham and his research team have been developing a wave-powered water pump for their fish-farming project in Lord’s Cove. The prototype is 75 per cent finished and they hope to be testing it in the ocean in the near future.

Graham’s journey to discovering wave power began years ago during an economic development board meeting, where he and others were discussing how to create new industry in coastal communities that were rocked by the cod moratorium.

Fish farming, also known as aquaculture, was brought up as an idea. But finding a way to pump water to the onshore farms without running up electric bills remained an obstacle. So the idea was hatched to develop a device that would power the water pump using the natural movement of the ocean.

See related: Thoughts on fracking from the symposium

The Lord’s Cove aquaculture project isn’t a commercial one since it’s being used for research. It’s currently raising salmon, sea urchins, sea cucumber, scallops and seaweed.

Right now the water pump for the fish tanks runs on regular electricity. But if the ocean pump idea is successful, the fish farm, and future fish farms, could be totally self sufficient with minimal electricity costs.

“It’s an untapped resource, more than anything else,” Graham said about the waves off coastal Newfoundland.

Ironically, Graham was once told that Newfoundland’s waves would actually be a hindrance to developing aquaculture in the province. But, says Graham, sometimes you have to look at a problem and see if it could actually be a solution.

 “We turned around and said ‘No, those waves are the resource that’s going to allow us to have aquaculture in these communities.”