THE INSPIRATION A nature documentary about Pacific atolls—extinct volcanoes submerged just beneath the ocean surface—inspired Danish engineer Erik Friis-Madsen to dream up the Wave Dragon. The narrator of the film explained that as ocean waves approach these underwater obstacles, the water’s energy becomes concentrated. As a result, waves grow bigger and then splash over the tops of the atolls into a central lagoon; upon the waves’ retreat, water rushes through narrow openings in the reefs—precisely, Friis-Madsen realized, like water spilling from a reservoir through a dam. Friis-Madsen imagined using several thousand tons of concrete to create a movable atoll, and then hauling it to the sites of the world’s best waves. (And they say you can’t move mountains.)


THE MACHINE Think of the Wave Dragon as a 300-foot-long floating barge containing a dammed reservoir. As waves approach the two outstretched concrete-and-steel wings (which mimic the edge of an underwater volcano), water is pushed up and over a ramp into the machine’s central reservoir (a man-made lagoon). When this captured water drains out, it passes through 16 to 20 openings outfitted with turbines, which spin to produce electricity.

THE OREGON CONNECTION At the request of one unnamed investor interested in developing wave energy plants in Oregon, Wave Dragon produced a report detailing how the company might develop a 100-megawatt energy park composed of between 14 and 25 devices off our coast. (The specifics remain very hush-hush.)

THE REAL WORLD After two successful pilot tests off the coasts of Portugal and Denmark, Wave Dragon is gearing up to deploy a device off the southwest coast of Wales this year, a project that the company hopes will deliver electricity to about 4,000 homes in the town of Milford Haven. Investors in Chile, China, Ireland, and Oregon are interested in buying the machine—but according to Hans Christian Sørensen, Wave Dragon’s chairman of the board, “Everyone’s waiting to see how Wales does before signing up.”

A nature documentary about Pacific atolls inspired Danish engineer Erik Friis-Madsen to dream up the Wave Dragon.