Randwick & DIstrict Historical Society: FLASHBACK

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY: Percy Bates & Wave Energy

LURLINE BAY, NEW SOUTH WALES: Given our present concerns for potential alternative means of energy, it would be interesting to recall Percy Bates (1870-1949) who believed he could generate electricity using power derived from the motion of waves. To conduct his experiments in the 1920s, he cut a channel in the rocks near his shed-like workshop. The surge of the waves was enhanced as it moved up the channel and was at its most powerful at high tide.

Percy Bates Workshop at Lurline Bay, 1940s
Percy Bates' Workshop at Lurline Bay, 1940s

Over the channel he housed machinery that he devised to turn this power into electricity. Pumps circulated the water through a system containing a turbine and connected to a generator. In 1925 he was able to produce enough electricity to light his workshop. In August, 1920 he had submitted his drawings to the Patent Office under the title “Improvements in and relating to the utilisation of wave motion”, and in 1928 he assigned the subsequent patent to “Wave Water Co Ltd”. By 1930 this small and unique experiment was producing 5,000 watts at high tide.

Percy Bates was an inventor ahead of his time, for today countries in Scandinavia are experimenting with wave power for the production of electricity, varying the shape of the tunnels and their verticality.

He was also a man of many parts, having been a singer with his own quartet which is recorded as having entertained at the Millions Club. Whilst he was working on his experiments, his wife supported the family with voice lessons.

Robert Booth


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