Elizabeth Rusch on “Catching a Wave”

Elizabeth Rusch on “Catching a Wave”

Elizabeth Rusch is the author of "Catching a Wave." (Courtesy of Elizabeth Rusch)

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Well, at one point I asked Annette for an example of a failure or stumbling block she had to overcome. She laughed and said: Well, yesterday.

Yesterday? I asked.

Yes, she said: “We had this reporter coming (me!) and the current prototype was two inches too tall to fit in the test bed, and we really wanted to show the buoy in the test bed. It was like, okay, what do we do now? We had to innovate. We disassembled the test bed and reassembled it and made it work. We looked at all the options and moved forward. And that’s what we always do. We always run into challenges everyday with designing and building buoys. Everyday there’s a contingency and everyday there’s an opportunity to be innovative to overcome that challenge. So stumbling blocks not only happen, they happen everyday.”

I loved how in a small way I was part of the process of innovation.

What surprised you the most about the technology behind wave energy?

The wide array of designs that Annette has tried. Even when she settled on direct drive technology, the prototypes looked so different. One huge yellow buoy in her lab was big enough to protect my family in a nuclear war. Then a later one had a totally different shape: flat and wide like a flying saucer.

We are so used to seeing designs that have become standard, like the standard three-prong design for a windmill. With a new, emerging technology it’s really cool to see all the crazy options that are tested first.


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