Energy

Gibraltar's landmark wave power station opens for business

Gibraltar's landmark wave powe...
Gizmag watched as the landmark station's buoys were lowered into the water to begin collecting energy
Gizmag watched as the landmark station's buoys were lowered into the water to begin collecting energy
View 17 Images
Gibraltar's Prime Minister Fabian Picardo said some brief words about the significance of the occasion, before hitting the button that sent the buoys crashing down into the calm waters below
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Gibraltar's Prime Minister Fabian Picardo said some brief words about the significance of the occasion, before hitting the button that sent the buoys crashing down into the calm waters below
The first thing that struck us about the buoy system is that it fitted in surprisingly well with its picturesque surroundings
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The first thing that struck us about the buoy system is that it fitted in surprisingly well with its picturesque surroundings
The buoys are fixed to Gibraltar's World War II ammunition platform
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The buoys are fixed to Gibraltar's World War II ammunition platform
Gizmag watched as the landmark station's buoys were lowered into the water to begin collecting energy
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Gizmag watched as the landmark station's buoys were lowered into the water to begin collecting energy
The motion of the buoys is converted into fluid pressure, which then spins a generator to produce electricity
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The motion of the buoys is converted into fluid pressure, which then spins a generator to produce electricity
The power station is currently capable of producing 100 KW, but the team plans to spool up the amount of energy being generated, up to a 5 MW target by 2020
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The power station is currently capable of producing 100 KW, but the team plans to spool up the amount of energy being generated, up to a 5 MW target by 2020
The blue coloring of the outdoor equipment does a surprisingly good job of making it look at home in the picturesque setting of Gibraltar
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The blue coloring of the outdoor equipment does a surprisingly good job of making it look at home in the picturesque setting of Gibraltar
Stepping back into the darkness of the tunnel, we took a look at the rest of the equipment that completes the green energy set up
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Stepping back into the darkness of the tunnel, we took a look at the rest of the equipment that completes the green energy set up
Inside the control room enclosure is a mass of hydraulic accumulators, pipes and generators
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Inside the control room enclosure is a mass of hydraulic accumulators, pipes and generators
If you're not a big fan of touch controls, then you'll be happy to learn that there's a big, reassuringly bright red "emergency stop" button on the opposite side of the enclosure to the fancy touch interface
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If you're not a big fan of touch controls, then you'll be happy to learn that there's a big, reassuringly bright red "emergency stop" button on the opposite side of the enclosure to the fancy touch interface
Aside from the buoys themselves, all equipment is housed inside a shipping container away from the water
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Aside from the buoys themselves, all equipment is housed inside a shipping container away from the water
The entire system is controlled via a touch-screen interface located in a container inside the tunnel that leads to jetty
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The entire system is controlled via a touch-screen interface located in a container inside the tunnel that leads to jetty
The station is currently made up of four buoys on either side of the jetty, but it will be expanded to generate more power
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The station is currently made up of four buoys on either side of the jetty, but it will be expanded to generate more power
To get to the jetty, we took a short drive down the east coast of the territory, before walking down a dimly-lit, lengthy passage that took us underneath the iconic, limestone mass of the Rock of Gibraltar
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To get to the jetty, we took a short drive down the east coast of the territory, before walking down a dimly-lit, lengthy passage that took us underneath the iconic, limestone mass of the Rock of Gibraltar
EWP demonstrating the buoy's storm protection mechanism
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EWP demonstrating the buoy's storm protection mechanism
It's only in the stormiest weather that the system has to cease operations, being lifted back up from the waves to avoid damage
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It's only in the stormiest weather that the system has to cease operations, being lifted back up from the waves to avoid damage
While EWP claims that the hidden away control room won't need to be significantly expanded, the number of buoys will increase significantly as the station strives towards its 5 MW target
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While EWP claims that the hidden away control room won't need to be significantly expanded, the number of buoys will increase significantly as the station strives towards its 5 MW target

Gizmag was in Gibraltar today at the ribbon cutting event for Eco Wave Power's (EWP) innovative wave energy station, installed on the ammunition jetty in the tiny-yet-iconic British territory. The event itself was brief, but its significance could be huge, marking a big moment for both Gibraltar, and a company with promising green energy tech, and big plans.

We've been following the Israel-based company's progress for years. First tested back in 2012, in a tank at Ukraine's Institute for Hydromechanics in Kiev, the solution captures energy by harnessing the rise and fall of the waves. The motion is converted into fluid pressure, which then spins a generator to produce electricity.

It's been a long road since then, with the team ticking off numerous tests – including stress testing storm trials in the Black Sea, and the creation of a demo station in Jaffa Port, Israel – to evaluate and improve the technology. Today marks a major achievement for the company, inaugurating a landmark power station, installed on Gibraltar's World War II ammunition jetty. The system is Europe's first grid-connected wave energy plant.

The station is currently made up of four buoys on either side of the jetty, but it will be expanded to generate more power
The station is currently made up of four buoys on either side of the jetty, but it will be expanded to generate more power

To get to the jetty, we took a short drive down the east coast of the territory, before walking down a dimly-lit, lengthy passage that took us underneath the iconic, limestone mass of the Rock of Gibraltar. Stepping out into the golden sunshine some five minutes later, the first thing that struck us about the buoy system is that it fitted in surprisingly well with its picturesque surroundings.

That could well be one of the biggest advantages of EWP's solution here – the visual impact of the station is low, thanks in part to its use of the historic jetty, and the buoys themselves aren't unattractive. If future sites are similarly well placed, then protests from locals about the buoys "ruining the view" – a routine complaint about off shore wind farms – should be minimal.

The ribbon cutting event itself was brief, with Gibraltar's Prime Minister Fabian Picardo saying a few words about the significance of the occasion, before hitting the button that sent the buoys crashing down into the calm waters below.

Gibraltar's Prime Minister Fabian Picardo said some brief words about the significance of the occasion, before hitting the button that sent the buoys crashing down into the calm waters below
Gibraltar's Prime Minister Fabian Picardo said some brief words about the significance of the occasion, before hitting the button that sent the buoys crashing down into the calm waters below

Despite the slow bobbing motion of the floats during today's demo, EWP claims that the station efficiently gathers energy year round, from tranquil waters to less beach-friendly weather. It's only in the stormiest conditions that the system has to cease operations, being lifted back up from the waves to avoid damage.

Stepping back into the darkness of the tunnel, we took a look at the rest of the equipment that completes the green energy set up. Inside a shipping container to the side of the tunnel are the guts and brains of the station. A mass of hydraulic accumulators, pipes and generators – the entire system is controlled via a touch-screen interface.

According to EWP's on-site engineers, the station is designed to be largely automated, running with as little input as possible. Full manual control is available however, with the interface allowing engineers to complete required actions, such as raising the buoys out of the water. If you're not a big fan of touch controls, then you'll be happy to learn that there's also a big, reassuringly bright red "emergency stop" button on the opposite side of the enclosure.

Stepping back into the darkness of the tunnel, we took a look at the rest of the equipment that completes the green energy set up
Stepping back into the darkness of the tunnel, we took a look at the rest of the equipment that completes the green energy set up

Placing all equipment but the buoys themselves out and away from the water makes maintenance a breeze, and minimizes the chance of polluting the surrounding water should the equipment break down. For the buoys themselves, the company has employed anti-corrosion measures it claims will protect the metal for some 30 years before an overhaul is needed.

The power station is currently capable of producing 100 KW, but the team plans to increase the amount of energy being generated, up to a 5 MW target by 2020. At that point, the station will be producing an impressive 15 percent of the territory's energy needs.

That increase will require quite a lot of extra work. While EWP claim that the hidden away control room won't need to be significantly expanded, the number of buoys will increase significantly. The exact configuration for the rest of the jetty is a work in progress.

EWP demonstrating the buoy's storm protection mechanism
EWP demonstrating the buoy's storm protection mechanism

The ammunition jetty power station is just the start for EWP. We already knew that the company has been working on setting up a wave power station in China, and we learned today that it'll be heading to Mexico for its next big endeavour. Still awaiting government approval, the planned station would be far larger than the one in Gibraltar, at 25 MW.

Overall, the low-impact nature of the energy solution, combined with its easy-access maintenance and long life span could allow it to have a big impact across the globe. Today, EWP quoted World Energy Council figures, stating that the market potential for wave energy currently stands at a staggering one trillion US dollars.

There's a huge amount of room for growth in the sector, and while Gibraltar's new power station is small, it could well be a glimpse at much bigger things in the company's future.

The floats can be seen in action in the video below.

Source: Eco Wave Power

Eco Wave Power: Wavy day in Gibraltar May 2018

15 comments
Nik
I lived in Gibraltar for 2 1/2 years, and there was never significant wave action while I was there. This installation is located where it is relatively well protected from strong wind action. The strongest winds were from the west, and so the east is sheltered by The Rock, up to 1300 feet of it! Winds from the east were usually light, and as they were deflected upwards by The Rock, there was a calm area close to the shore. I suspect this is a 'white elephant' and knowing the culture in Gibraltar, a lot of palms were suitably oiled, and pockets lined.
Martin Winlow
Um... waves are generated/created way out at sea, so whilst I see your point it is, to an arguable extent, rather moot. One aspect of siting this (and I hope other) such systems in and around the Med is the relative lack of tidal reach making the design much more straight forward and I would also imagine much more efficient than one on, say, the Atlantic coast. That said, I can't wait to see what a 5MW system (ie 50,000 times the size of this 100kW one) will look like! Perhaps the articles numbers have got confused in translation...
Pelotoner
@martin ..You've probably realized by now the 5mW station would be 50X as large. 50,000X would be a 5gW station
Robt
@Martin Winlow: 100KW = 0.1 MW therefore, a 5MW installation would be 50 times larger, not 50,000
habakak
Good luck to them. More renewable energy is good. It is the future, whether you believe in climate change or not. There are plenty of reason to do this and do away with fossil fuels. IF and WHEN it becomes economically viable (like Solar has been doing the past 5+ years).
physics314
It would be interesting to see the EROEI calculation for a system like this. Seems like a lot of steel, for little captured energy.
Scott in California
The free subsidy is the pier upon which the wave device is attached. Building that pier would make it un-economic in the extreme. Ideally, ocean wave energy conversion devices are the "World War III" economic engine that could create millions of jobs. Instead of the death and destruction of warfare, instead of billions of dollars wasted on bullets, bombs, and rockets, people would be employed to create the thousands of components going into robotic vessels that would be used to lay out vast fields of owec devices that would be most effectively deployed in the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties surrounding the South Pole. Why BILLIONS for the F-35, which won't generate a single watt for a single home???
tsvieps
Missing from the article is the capital cost, even assuming the pier and real estate to locate the equipment is free. Earlier articles about the work of the inventors claim cost competive power for the design. They have had enough time to prove it. Author of this article please follow up with the cost.
kmccune
Where is the United states in all this ? We have waves a plenty,perhaps there are too many well fed comfortable people,who worry about the"Viewshed" (is that a term the conservancy invented ?) whilst we rely on the " clean coal ,wrested from the mountaintops of some isolated ridge in appalachia and the western coal fields ,for our energy needs ?
JimmyDavis
Hey Edison started by lighting up a few streets with very inefficient light bulbs . Innovation ,and improvment followed . So too with tidal power .