The Israeli startup has developed a cost-effective and eco-friendly technology to generate clean renewable energy and connect it directly into the electricity grid, tapping into one of the most vast and unlimited natural resources in the world — sea waves.
Energy generation is one of the biggest contributors to climate change — accounting for about 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly due to the exploitation of fossil fuels. But what if there was a way to exploit the endless motion of the sea waves instead, to produce clean electricity? That is exactly what Eco Wave Power, an Israeli startup, has been doing since 2012.
Although harvesting renewable energy from water is far from being new, its methods have been focusing so far primarily on the use of hydropower.
Wave energy, however, constitutes an innovative way to leverage water resources and has enormous potential for development. The World Energy Council, for instance, predicts that it can produce twice the amount of electricity the world currently produces. But with most of the existing wave energy infrastructures being installed offshore, the technology has been struggling to scale-up because of the high costs of maintaining a power plant in the middle of the ocean.
That is where Eco Wave Power’s unique technology comes in as a revolutionary approach: it attaches to existing marine structures, on-shore, such as breakwaters, and can feed the generated electricity directly into the power grid. An idea that comes in handy when considering that about 40 percent of the world's population —nearly 2.4 billion people— lives within 100 kilometers of coastal lines, according to a 2017 UN report.
The technology, controlled by a smart automation system, is actually rather simple. It is comprised of floaters located on the water surface that move up and down following the waves’ natural motion. This movement compresses and decompresses hydraulic pistons that transmit biodegradable hydraulic fluid into land located accumulators. Pressure is built inside these accumulators, rotating a hydraulic motor, which rotates a generator, transferring the electricity into the grid via an inverter.
After decompression the fluid flows back into the hydraulic fluid tank, where it can be re-used by the pistons, thus creating a closed circular loop. And if a storm raises the water level and the waves become too much for the system to handle, the floaters automatically rise above the water and stay in an upward position until the storm passes, protecting itself.
Founded in 2011 by female entrepreneur Inna Braverman, the company has received numerous awards for its positive environmental impact, including the Global Climate Action Award by the United Nations last September and grants by ERDF, Horizon 2020 and the Energy Ministry of Israel.
Born in Ukraine in 1986 and having suffered a respiratory arrest after the Chernobyl disaster when she was only a baby, Braverman made it her mission to find reliable, safe and eco-friendly alternative energy sources. Grown up, she embarked on the Eco Wave Power technology development at the Institute of Hydromechanics in Kiev, where her design received a protocol from the Hydro Mechanic Institute after successfully passing wave tank tests in December 2011.
Today, her company is active in Sweden, Israel, Gibraltar, China, Australia and Mexico, and has two power plants up and running. The first one, an off-grid pilot plant originally installed in the Black Sea in 2012, has been has been operating and producing electricity for testing and study in Jaffa Port, Israel, since 2014. The second one, installed in 2016 in Gibraltar, is the only grid-connected wave energy array in the world, operational under an overall 5-megawatts Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) signed with the national government, which is still in its first phase. In 2018, the station clocked over 15,000 grid-connection hours — a world record for wave energy. Once the project reaches 5 megawatts, it is expected to supply 15 percent of the country’s electricity needs.
Eco Wave Power is now undertaking the expansion of the Israeli project in partnership with Electricité de France (EDF), in a bid to transform it into the second wave energy power station connected to the electrical grid in the world. And with several other projects around the globe in the pipelines, the company could very well reshape the renewable energy’s future, one wave at a time.
This article has been written as part as a series of stories produced for open_resource by Sparknews, a French social enterprise that aims to foster new narratives that can help accelerate a social and environmental transition to tackle our world’s most pressing issues.