Basque company is harnessing the power of seas and oceans as a source of renewable energy

wave power

Our seas and oceans are a vast energy source that is barely utilized nowadays. The use of wave power sparks significant interest due to its high energy density and the potential high performance it offers.

Arrecife Energy Systems, a Basque start-up specialized in renewable energy extracted from wave power is about to change this reality.


The prototype

The firm tested a prototype for the first wave power generation system installed in the Cantabrian Sea. The system was manufactured in association with Tacomi, an engineering firm part of the JIS group that joined as an Arrecife shareholder in June 2018.

This test constitutes a huge milestone for Arrecife Energy Systems that the company had hoped to achieve in the summer of 2019, as part of its strategic plan.

The first prototype is 13 m long and 3 m wide, which corresponds to a scaling of 1:3. Furthermore, it has ten turbines with a unique design created by professor and expert in fluid mechanic Jose Javier Doria (cofounder and president of this Basque company).

This 75kw system weighs 9.9 tons and exhibits a coral color as homage to the subaquatic structure it imitates.

As its name indicates, Arrecife Energy System’s technology is inspired by coral reefs that break waves. The energy generated once the wave breaks over the coral reef is what this start-up wants to harness to produce electricity.

Obstacles for wave power

The energy that comes from waves in seas and oceans as they make their way to the coast and then back is known as wave power.

While it offers many advantages, especially from an environmental standpoint, it faces great obstacles, including a corrosive environment, the need to operate in extreme weather conditions, and the waves’ power variability and low frequency. In view of this, the technology is still in the development stage.

Over the past 25 years, there have been great advances in the design of devices to harness wave power, but most are still in the pre-marketing stage.

This is the area that requires more research to reach a level of maturity that enables to sell robust and reliable systems that can endure the extreme weather that the systems may have to withstand.

That is where the Arrecife Energy Systems has focused its work.

Tangible example

The prototype was launched in Laredo, in the province of Cantabria, where several studies were conducted.

After being brought from Vizcaya, it was first placed in the water to study its stability and leveling. Afterward, they assessed the immersion system’s functioning – designed to submerge the prototype in case of waves of over 5 meters high.

It was also taken to open sea to observe the dynamics of its turbines. Finally, after being anchored at the port for several days, the prototype was removed.

The prototype will continue to be assessed in September at the Biscay Marine Energy Platform (BIMEP) in Arminza Basque country.

Arrecife was a finalist of the MIT Water Innovation Prize and won the 2017 Global Marine Technology Entrepreneurship Competition in Boston. The EU awarded the start-up €50,000, and it has obtained the European Commission’s Seal of Excellence three occasions in a row.

Moreover, in 2019 it obtained the Sustainability Vertical award granted by Extreme Tech Challenge, a competition organized by Richard Branson that identifies innovations that could solve the world’s greatest problems.


The road ahead

Although wave power generation is not as profitable as other renewable energies, it does provide a number of advantages derived from its characteristics. Its density, stability, forecasting possibilities, and proximity to consumption sites make it an interesting investment.

Advanced countries that have begun exploiting this alternative technology include the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark.

For more information, check Energía16

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