Catching the Wave a submission to the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica

Artist Team: Christina Vannelli, Liz Davidson, Matthew Madigan
Artist Location: Hamilton, Ontario Canada
Energy Technologies: Point Absorber Wave Energy Converter (similar to CETO™ by Carnegie Wave Energy)
Annual Capacity: 16,000 MWh

Catching the Wave is an artistic impression of the historical context of the Santa Monica Pier and its breakwater. The area behind the breakwater was once home to a yacht harbor filled with hundreds of sailboats and moorings. Catching the Wave utilizes the relationship of a sail ship and its mooring, and exaggerates the scale of both silhouettes. The fleet is moved to the west side of the breakwater to capitalize on the raw energy of the ocean’s waves.

The installation is made up of 60 buoys that capture wave energy. Each “energy buoy” is eight meters in diameter. The large size increases the function of efficiency in capturing the potential energy in each wave. Each buoy is connected to a piston mounted on the ocean floor by a flexible tether. With the upward swell of each wave, the buoy and the piston rise, allowing room for seawater to flood a large chamber. When the wave falls, the buoy and piston fall with it, pressurizing the water into pipes laid out on the ocean floor.

Back above the surface, the fleet of 15 sail ships is clustered amongst the sea of buoys. Each sail is 40 meters tall and is connected with two to seven buoys, which all send their pressurized seawater to the mechanical housing below the sail platform. The pressurized seawater turns a turbine within the housing to create sustainable energy for the Santa Monica grid.

As the waves increase in intensity, the sails above become brighter, illuminated by responsive LEDs. Visitors can relate in real time to the clean energy production and speculate on how bright the sails could become.

The bobbing of the blue and white striped buoys, the fluttering of the bright coral sails, and the people lounging in the summer sun on the wooden decks of the isolated platforms, all come together to create an elegant calm.

Visitors can take kayaks and paddle in and around the artwork. Passing the last sail, they will have reached the western extent of American settlement. But the frontier of environmentally conscience design is only just opening. Wave energy infrastructure is now embarking on a journey to a brave new future.