New energy from fluid power

I recently had the privilege of presenting some ideas on the subject of fluid power usage in the area of alternative energy production. This took place at the 2008 FPDA Annual Meeting at Saddlebrook Resort in Florida. During this meeting, the FPDA announced some new plans for the organization to increase the value of membership. Go to their website at for more details on that.

Having to prepare for this presentation, I learned a great deal about the potential for new opportunities for hydraulics and pneumatics technologies in power generation — specifically wind power, solar power, and wave power. My job at this meeting was to review some of the progress of fluid power in this field and then moderate a discussion with a group of fluid power manufacturers and distributors.

Wind power, in particular, was of great interest to the group. It seems as though this form of power generation is fairly inexpensive compared to others and offers easiest access to the existing power grids. The role played by fluid power is that of keeping the blades of the wind turbines pitched in the best position to maximize the energy captured from the wind, while keeping the turbine turning at as close to a steady speed as possible.

The greatest potential of wind energy lies in large, windy, open areas, which are plentiful throughout the US. And, of course, we need the energy. My research revealed that wind energy is on the rise and fluid power is the best design choice for wind turbines.

But the FPDA wasn’t just blowing in the wind. Solar power has been in use for many years, and hydraulics has been a contributor to the efficiency of this energy source as well. In order to maximize the collection of sunlight by solar panels, hydraulic actuators often are used for positioning arrays of solar panels, which we reported on in a recent article.

Wave power is probably the most intriguing of the energy sources that I studied for my presentation. This refers to the energy of ocean surface waves and how that energy is captured to do useful work — including power generation. Terminator devices, point absorbers, attenuators, and overtopping devices all work to capture wave energy and produce electricity, often using hydraulic systems. Again, this source of energy is plentiful.

For more information on this technology, keep reading Hydraulics & Pneumatics, as we will stay on top of these developments in energy and power generation in our print magazine as well as on our web products. Also, we are certainly interested in learning your thoughts on the subject, so please go to our online forums, found on our website, for interesting discussions and to post your views involving green power.

Thanks for reading Hydraulics & Pneumatics, and please keep your input coming.