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Water power: waves

Case Study: Salter's Duck.

Does it matter who funds the research?

Research into wave power began over 30 years ago and initially looked promising. In the 1970’s (Professor) Stephen Salter of Edinburgh University began experiments using a shaped float that bobbed up and down in the waves, which quickly became known as the Salter’s Duck. To this date it is still regarded as the most efficient of any wave power system produced, converting up to 80% of the wave energy to electricity.

The experiments were going well and then in 1982 all the work suddenly stopped. Why?

During the 1970's and 80's almost all of the funding for research into renewable energy came from a organisation that was part of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. In other words, wave research was funded by the regulators of the Nuclear industry.

In 2001, Professor Salter was giving sworn evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee and spoke of the project and how it was suddenly shut down.

Open quote:I expect that everything was decided [...] with long range control of a committee known as ACORD that was recruited largely from the nuclear and the depletable energy industries.Close quote:
Original source
 

You can read an account of how the wave duck programme was shut down here.

Question:   What do you think actually happened to the research programme and why?


Next: Tidal Power

 

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ETHICAL ISSUES INVOLVED
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Conflicts of interest

Renewable energy is a political hot potato. It is a direct threat to the livelihoods of everyone who works in existing energy industries such as fossil fuels and nuclear power. These are among the most rich and powerful industries in the world. How can scientists do their work if their research treads on the toes of politicians and powerful businesses?
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Ethical code for scientists?

Do scientists have a responsibility to speak out if they see research being undermined by politics? How might this affect their careers?
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Issues of funding

There is an old saying: he who pays the piper calls the tune. Who pays for research and who adminsters the money can have profound impacts upon the success or failure of scientific work. Do you think there was unfair influence in this case? How solid is the evidence?

OWNING UP TO A "MISTAKE"

First read the article in the activity box below left. Then read this article: Sorry Ducks! New Scientist 1990.
 
Does it change your opinions of what happened to the wave research programme, or reinforce it?