Surf’s up for Israeli wave power

Surf’s up for Israeli wave power

Eco Wave Power’s technology is leading the way in renewable energy, with the potential to provide electricity for thousands

An Eco Wave Power device (Courtesy)
An Eco Wave Power device (Courtesy)

The wind may not blow and the sun may not shine, but waves are pretty constant. That, according to some scientists, makes wave power a better and more reliable source of renewable energy than solar or wind. And few companies have embraced the idea of mass-producing energy using wave power than Israel’s Eco Wave Power (EWP).

EWP has received numerous awards for its technology since it was established in 2012, including an Energy Globe award, considered one of the world’s most prestigious prizes for environmental technology. Last week the company received its latest recognition — as a “Pioneering Device” — in an award presented by Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources. With the new status, EWP is eligible to receive a production quota and connect its wave-energy power plant and sell electricity to Israel’s power grid. This would be a first.

Wave power has been used for over 200 years in one form or another, with new interest generated in the 1970s when the Arab oil embargo prompted a wave of research that resulted in the development of new equipment that vastly improved the “power yield” of waves. Today, there are several wave-energy generation test systems in the US, Europe and Australia, with several commercial systems currently under development.

According to many researchers, wave power has great potential to generate large amounts of electricity — more than either solar or wind power can generate. Studies have shown that just one meter of wave along the shore has an energy density (potential output) of 30-40 kilowatts. And further out into the sea, the yield could be as much as 100 kilowatts per meter.

Based on those figures, a wave farm — a cluster of machines that takes up an area of less than half a square mile and that captures waves and turns them into energy — could generate over 30 megawatts of electricity, or enough for more than 20,000 households.

Unlike solar and wind power, which require extensive energy storage facilities for commercial deployment, waves are in motion all the time, although not always at the same intensity. But wave power has numerous challenges — it’s expensive to deploy, the devices used to capture waves are subject to corrosion from the saltwater, and the power transmission cables that must be installed to transport the converted energy to a generator could have a negative impact on marine life due to the electromagnetic energy they emit.

There are about a dozen technologies in use to convert wave power to energy, and according to EWP, all of them have drawbacks — drawbacks that are addressed by their system. In all these technologies, the machinery that does the actual wave-to-energy conversion is housed in buoys that have cables leading to land-based generators. But, the company said: “While examining the operation principles of wave-energy converters with traditionally shaped buoys, we came to the conclusion that such shapes enable generating only a calculated amount of power at the expanse of lifting force of surfacing. However, the possibility to recover from an incident flow was not utilized.”

EWP’s redesigned buoys — the “Wave Clapper” and the “Power Wing” — enable generating power both at change of water level and from an incident flow. When these two buoys are operating at different heights of waves, they provide a stable operation at different waves’ height.

According to the company, the float mechanism was designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, so it has a minimum impact on marine life. The machinery is housed in super-strong, corrosion-resistant steel that can handle the rigors of sea life for 30 years and the power transmission system has as little effect as possible on the surrounding environment because activity in the mechanism — and activation of the transmission system — only takes place when electricity is needed in the power station. When it isn’t, the system can be at rest, thus reducing the electromagnetic energy emitted.

EWP has several test projects, including one in the Jaffa port and another under construction in Gibraltar. So far, $2 million in financing for projects have been raised, and, according to the company’s co-founders, the permit for connecting to Israel’s electric grid that the company is set to receive represents another accomplishment for the EWP team and its global partners.

The future is looking bright for EWP and wave energy as it picks up traction and becomes more prevalent among other green energy initiatives.

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