Eco Wave Power: can they succeed where others failed?7 April 2020
By locating power plants onshore/nearshore – rather than offshore – and making use of existing structures such as breakwaters and jetties, Eco Wave Power believes it can overcome the difficulties that have hampered wave power development to date.
On 2 March, Eco Wave Power (EWP) reported completion (by Siemens) of the electrical section of the “conversion unit” for its new Jaffa Port installation in Israel, shortly after completion of the hydraulic systems (announced a few weeks earlier, on 27 January).
The conversion unit (including both hydraulic and electrical systems) has been assembled in a standard-sized shipping container.
The next step is performing “wave simulation testing” with the conversion unit, prior to its transport to the Jaffa Port site. Meanwhile, at the site, work will include breakwater reinforcement and installation of the “floaters”.
The floaters rise and fall with the waves, driving pistons, which create hydraulic pressure in the land based accumulators. The hydraulic pressure is then used to rotate a hydraulic motor, which drives a generator, producing electricity for the grid via an inverter.
All the electrics, from the generator and to the grid connection point, have been purchased from and assembled by Siemens. The design, procurement and execution of the electrical system has been done in co-ordination with IEC (Israeli Electric Corporation) and is “up to all required standards, in order to enable smooth connection to the country’s electrical grid”, says Eco Wave Power.
The new Jaffa Port project is being executed in collaboration with EDF Renewables (with whom EWP signed a JV agreement in May 2019). Co- funding is being provided by the Israeli Energy Ministry under a grant awarded in October 2018.
The grant covers the expansion of Eco Wave Power’s existing off-grid pilot plant at Jaffa Port to 100 kW and its connection to the Israeli national grid.
It represents a significant upgrade of the technology and should reduce scaling risks as Eco Wave Power shifts its focus towards commercial-scale projects.
Eco Wave Power was founded in 2011 and development of the concept began in that year at the Institute of Hydromechanics in Kiev, with wave tank testing. In April 2012, Eco Wave Power installed its first “real conditions” power plant, on two breakwaters in the Black Sea, for the purpose of data collection and stress testing (in particular in storm conditions, the Black Sea being a good place to experience sudden storms). The Black Sea installation combined two different floater shapes, the “wave clapper” and the “power wing”. The system operated in different wave regimes for a significant period, and was then shipped to Israel and installed in Jaffa Port as part of the off-grid pilot plant. This pilot plant has operated for some six years and remains in operation for testing of new system components, floater designs, materials, etc.
The new Jaffa Port installation will be Eco Wave Power’s second grid-connected installation, the first being in Gibraltar.
In 2014, Eco Wave Power signed a 5 MW PPA (power purchase agreement) with the government of Gibraltar and the Gibraltar Electricity Authority.
The project was funded under the HORIZON 2020 EU R&D programme and by the EU Regional Development Fund, as well as by private investment groups.
In May 2016, EWP and the government of Gibraltar held an official opening ceremony to mark completion of the initial 100 kW tranche of the 5 MW facility, located on the east side of Gibraltar on a former World War II ammunition jetty, and currently thought to be the only operational grid-connected wave energy array in the world.
Rethinking wave power
A distinguishing feature of Eco Wave Power’s approach is its focus on placing facilities in the onshore and nearshore environment, attaching them to existing structures such as breakwaters. In contrast, the majority of wave energy developers around the world to date have chosen to install their wave energy facilities offshore, notes Inna Braverman, founder and CEO of Eco Wave Power, to make use of locations with the highest energy availabilities and densities. This has “hindered the technological development of the whole sector”, she believes, for the following reasons:
- The costs of offshore wave power facilities are high, due to high costs associated with offshore installation, maintenance, and connection to the grid (the process requires ships, divers, underwater transmission cables, underwater connections, etc).
- Offshore wave energy power plants have low reliability. The offshore environment is aggressive and unforgiving, with waves reaching heights of 20 meters or more. “No man-made equipment can survive those types of loads for extended periods”, says Braverman.
- To commercialise any type of technology, it is imperative to ensure that its different components are insurable. Without insurance, financial institutions and private and public investors will find it difficult to invest substantial funds. However, “once insurance companies were exposed to the high costs and low reliability associated with offshore wave energy systems, they refused to insure companies in the field”, Braverman contends.
- Environmental organisations have considerable say in the deployment of innovative technologies and, ideally, environmentalists should have been the biggest proponents of wave energy. However, observes Braverman, “they objected to the use of offshore wave energy systems as the offshore technologies have created a new presence on the ocean floor by mooring equipment to the ocean floor, which disturbed marine habitats and migration.”
When Eco Wave Power was founded some nine years ago, explains Inna Braverman, “the founders of the company understood that in order to develop a commercially viable wave energy technology, we had to address and overcome the four main issues listed above, cost, reliability, insurability, and environmental impact – which had impeded the commercialisation of wave energy in the past.”
And after several years of development and experimentation, “the company succeeded in solving these four main issues as follows”:
- The costs of Eco Wave Power’s wave energy plants are estimated to be relatively low as the floaters attach to pre-existing man-made infrastructure and marine structures, such as piers, breakwaters, jetties, etc. The hydraulic/ electrical conversion equipment is designed to be compact and is installed on land.
- Eco Wave Power power plants are expected to be extremely reliable since they are not installed in the offshore environment, but rather on pre-existing structures, with most of the expensive equipment (as mentioned) located on land (“just like a conventional power station”) with only the station’s floaters located in the water. Additionally, “the company has developed a patented storm protection mechanism which automatically raises the floaters out of the water and locks them into place in the event of a storm, preventing mechanical damage due to extreme conditions.”
- Eco Wave Power’s power plants (in Israel and Gibraltar) are “fully insured by reputable insurance companies.”
- Eco Wave Power’s power plant’s have negligible environmental impact as they “don’t introduce anything new into the marine environment and don’t require any mooring to the ocean floor.”
Eco Wave Power points to recent studies that would appear to bear out its approach, for example the graph below produced by Texas A&M University (https://waveenergyconversiontamu15.weebly.com/theory-of-wave-energy--availability.html).
This suggests that although the maximum wave power is higher offshore, the exploitable level of power in the offshore and nearshore is practically the same. This is due to the fact that in deep water, waves can travel in almost any direction, making it difficult to extract energy, whereas wave energy converters positioned in nearshore locations almost always encounter waves coming from broadly the same direction. This significantly boosts the quantity of energy captured. Furthermore, maximum wave heights in nearshore areas are closer to average wave heights in those areas, implying that wave energy plants in nearshore areas tend to encounter more stable sea states, providing more easily exploitable wave energy resources compared with offshore locations.
A recent study by the Indian Institute of Technology also supports the claim that the best location for wave energy power generation is indeed breakwaters, says EWP, while another study, by the Institute of Marine Sciences and Technology, Dokuz Eylu¨l University, Turkey, concludes that onshore technologies have significantly higher survivability and are more cost effective than offshore technologies.
EWP’s approach is attracting support from investors. In July 2019, the company raised SEK 121.8 m (about $13 m) via an IPO on Nasdaq First North, Stockholm, where its shares are traded. As a result of this the company has around 5900 shareholders, the principal ones being Swedish institutional investors AP4 (pension fund) and Skandia Fonder.
The EWP patent portfolio includes: system design; floater mechanism and movement; control systems; mechanism for protecting the system from shock waves; lever regulation mechanism; floater regulation mechanism; power conversion; and wave farm architecture.