Energy

Landmark Gibraltar station is just the start for Eco Wave Power

Landmark Gibraltar station is ...
Sitting in the shadow of the famous Rock of Gibraltar, Eco Wave Power's first grid-connected station provides just a glimpse of things to come
Sitting in the shadow of the famous Rock of Gibraltar, Eco Wave Power's first grid-connected station provides just a glimpse of things to come
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The hardware installed on the jetty in Gibraltar is well suited to its environment, with a pointed design to split through waves, and the ability to gather power even in good weather
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The hardware installed on the jetty in Gibraltar is well suited to its environment, with a pointed design to split through waves, and the ability to gather power even in good weather
Last month, Gizmag was on the ground in Gibraltar as Eco Wave Power (EWP) inaugurated the first ever grid-connected wave power station in Europe
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Last month, Gizmag was on the ground in Gibraltar as Eco Wave Power (EWP) inaugurated the first ever grid-connected wave power station in Europe
The jetty-based station is running at 100 KW, but the company is committed to providing the territory with 15 percent of its energy needs by 2020 – equal to 5 MW
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The jetty-based station is running at 100 KW, but the company is committed to providing the territory with 15 percent of its energy needs by 2020 – equal to 5 MW
The Gibraltar buoys are built to rise above the waves to avoid taking damage, which is a solution that works well given the generally mild weather in the territory
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The Gibraltar buoys are built to rise above the waves to avoid taking damage, which is a solution that works well given the generally mild weather in the territory
Gibraltar's ammunition jetty wasn't quite the perfect location for the fledgling station, but the team was keen to respect the tranquil environment
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Gibraltar's ammunition jetty wasn't quite the perfect location for the fledgling station, but the team was keen to respect the tranquil environment
For the Gibraltar station, the team opted to fit the buoys close to face of the rock, minimizing their visual impact
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For the Gibraltar station, the team opted to fit the buoys close to face of the rock, minimizing their visual impact
Sitting in the shadow of the famous Rock of Gibraltar, Eco Wave Power's first grid-connected station provides just a glimpse of things to come
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Sitting in the shadow of the famous Rock of Gibraltar, Eco Wave Power's first grid-connected station provides just a glimpse of things to come

Last month, Gizmag was on the ground in Gibraltar as Eco Wave Power (EWP) inaugurated the first ever grid-connected wave power station in Europe. It was a big moment for the company, but only hinted at its plans for the future, with much larger efforts on the horizon. With the Gibraltar station off to a good start, Gizmag sat down with EWP's co-founders Inna Braverman and David Leb to discuss the present and future of the company.

While the company has big plans for the future, all of its recent efforts have been focused on Gibraltar's ammunition jetty. Construction started on the first-phase station at the beginning of the year, with testing taking place up until just a few weeks before the big switch-on.

So, why the ammunition jetty in the first place? Well, according to company co-founder Inna Braverman, it's been a two-way learning process. A key part of EWP's appeal is how it tailors its solutions to the specific environment of a project, and this first experience of working on a grid-connected plant reflected that.

Over the years that the company has been developing its system, coming up with some eight different designs of floaters. The hardware installed on the jetty in Gibraltar is well suited to its environment, with a pointed design to split through waves, and the ability to gather power even in good weather.

"These floaters were made suitable in terms of the weight and size," Inna told Gizmag. "When we received the 15 years of wave data from the meteorological office, we saw that the waves here are pretty low. We had to make sure that when the waves are low, we still produce power."

The hardware installed on the jetty in Gibraltar is well suited to its environment, with a pointed design to split through waves, and the ability to gather power even in good weather
The hardware installed on the jetty in Gibraltar is well suited to its environment, with a pointed design to split through waves, and the ability to gather power even in good weather

The Gibraltar buoys are built to rise above the water to avoid taking damage, which is a solution that works well given the generally mild weather in the territory. The company has also come up with other storm protection solutions, such as lowering the floats into the water.

Gibraltar has an inefficient, island-style power grid, and the wave station is the first renewable energy solution to make its way to the territory. The experience with the jetty station allowed the government to get to grips with the green energy solution, paving the way for the upcoming expansion. Considering that the plant is the first grid-connected wave energy station in Europe, getting it up and running would likely be a learning curve for most governments.

EWP was also keen to reiterate its commitment to providing bespoke, low-impact energy solutions. Gibraltar's ammunition jetty wasn't quite the perfect location for the fledgling station, but the team was keen to respect the tranquil environment.

Some work needed to be done to the World War II platform before the buoys could be fixed in place, and the team opted to fit them close to the face of the rock, minimizing their visual impact. That decision slightly lowering the energy produced, as larger waves are present at the end of the jetty.

Gibraltar's ammunition jetty wasn't quite the perfect location for the fledgling station, but the team was keen to respect the tranquil environment
Gibraltar's ammunition jetty wasn't quite the perfect location for the fledgling station, but the team was keen to respect the tranquil environment

The jetty-based station is running at 100 KW, but the company is committed to providing the territory with 15 percent of its energy needs by 2020 – equal to 5 MW. The team has six months to optimize the existing station before the expansion project kicks off.

That planned increase means putting in more equipment, most notably a lot more buoys. The new floats won't sit on the ammunition jetty, but will be placed on a new marina a little north of the current site. That new location, which will include a lengthy cement arm, will be a lot more roomy, allowing for the future buoys to be much bigger, and therefore more efficient at harnessing energy.

Looking further forward, the next big project on EWP's roadmap is a new plant on the Pacific side of Mexico. The project is in the planning stages, with private investors committed to funding the effort. A number of environmental reports need to be conducted, submitted and approved before construction can start, with the approval process expected to take 12-18 months.

Like the smaller effort in Gibraltar, the planned Mexico station will be built in phases, starting with a 4.1 MW station. Once the whole system is complete, it'll be running at an impressive 25 MW. Unlike the Gibraltar station, the future effort will be fixed coastal pylons, rather than an existing coastal feature.

"This does raise the price," Inna commented. "It raised the price from US$1 million for our equipment, to about $2.4 million with the pylons, but even with that taken into account, the waves are good, and it's still cost-efficient."

The Gibraltar buoys are built to rise above the waves to avoid taking damage, which is a solution that works well given the generally mild weather in the territory
The Gibraltar buoys are built to rise above the waves to avoid taking damage, which is a solution that works well given the generally mild weather in the territory

The Mexican effort is far from the only project on the horizon, with plans to build stations in China, alongside 12.5 MW and 30 MW stations set to crop up in England and Scotland down the line.

Right now, the EWP team is stretched pretty thin, with the entire company consisting of 18 people working across several continents. As the projects and investors roll in, the company will grow up, taking on more staff to meet its growing commitments.

Assuming the ongoing success of the Gibraltar station, the company is now in the enviable position of being able to pick and choose where to head for future projects.

"We've got a lot of projects in the pipeline, and now it's just a matter of choosing where and what's going to come next," explained David. "For us, in the big scheme of things, Gibraltar is a small project, but in the present it's a huge project for us. We had to devote all our time to this. Now we can tweak it and work on the next big one."

Company website: Eco Wave Power

3 comments
GlassHalfEmpty
I will take this over wind turbines anyday
Nik
Having lived in Gibraltar, wave power is probably the least effective source of energy, as there is minimal wave action. In addition, the jetty, as normal, was located for minimum wave action, so will provide very little wave action. When the wind is from the west, there is none. However when the wind is east or west, it is usually one or the other, it is forced upwards 1300 feet by the Rock, so there is usually a constant Levant, cloud, where warm moist sea level air is forced upwards. Throwing anything into this airstream, from the top of the Rock, resulted in it being carried upwards to significant heights. It would therefore seem that wind power would be far more effective and consistent in the Gib location. The generators could be located horizontally in ducts, below the level of the top of the Rock, for minimal visual impact.
Daishi
This article is a bit older but the range of motion for waves is semi-limited. I wonder if some kind of inflatable flotation device in deep water would have any merit as a renewable energy source. To recover sunken ships they sometimes use air tanks to inflate baloons and float them up to the surface. If you put a container in the water it's amazing how much weight it can life once you fill it with air. Try holding a 5 gallon jug or a basketball under water some time for instance. It seems like you could run a small hose down to a floatation device, push air through it, have the device float to the surface using the energy moved to drive a turbine, and then fill the device with water again to allow it to sink before repeating the process. I guess perpetual energy fallacy means that the energy used to pressurize the air down through the hose will always have to be more than what is recovered when the balloon rises no matter how deep the water is but I'm wondering if that part could be solved easilly though wave motion. Much like how a bike pump works in small increments the wave motion could be used to operate the air pump to minimize the external energy input into the system. This seems like it could almost be a worthy science project to try if anyone needs an idea for such a thing.