Wha's like us… Stephen Salter

More than 35 years ago, an Edinburgh University engineer dreamt up a method of harnessing energy that proved way ahead of its time. Professor Stephen Salter designed the first device to generate electricity from waves, a machine known as "Salter's Edinburgh Duck".

With the professor's help, Edinburgh-based Aquamarine Power has designed the Oyster, modelled on the "Duck" first trialled in a university wave tank in the 1970s. The machine consists of a hinged flap on the seabed near the shore that is pushed back and forth by waves. The flap pushes pistons that send water through a tube to a hydro-electric turbine on land.

Last week, Aquamarine won a major investment from ABB, a global leader in the manufacture of energy technology, and the company expects to start selling its Oysters by 2015. World leaders gathering in Mexico this week to address climate change owe pioneers such as Salter a debt of gratitude for finding alternatives to dwindling fossil fuel supplies.