What is the key technology of CorPower and what makes the WEC system significantly more effective - and thus cheaper than previous wave energy solutions?
CorPower’s technology bring solutions which address fundamental challenges of wave energy: 1. Reliability in the harsh ocean environment and 2. how to generate large amounts of energy compared to the size and the cost of the equipment.
Firstly, our unique storm survivability solution makes our WECs transparent in large storm waves, enabling them to survive the harshest ocean conditions. This novel protection mode is similar to technology used in the wind turbine sector with blades pitching in storms.
Secondly, the introducing of advanced phase control technology is helping to strongly amplified power capture in regular sea conditions. Our WECs are essentially heaving buoys which float on the surface absorbing energy from ocean waves while connected to the seabed using a tensioned mooring system. Special technology is used to make the compact devices oscillate in resonance with the incoming waves, amplifying the motion and power capture and harnessing energy from the rise and fall as well as the back and forth motion of waves.
Our resonant WECs have four significant patented features:
1. Pneumatic pretension system. Makes the device transparent to storm waves, and brings down the required materials by 40% compared to a conventional gravity-balanced WEC, reducing CAPEX.
2. WaveSpring phase control technology, providing 300% increase in Annual Energy Production (AEP) for a given buoy size.
3. Cascade gearbox technology, enabling robust conversion of the amplified linear motion into rotation with low losses.
4. Composite hull technology, eliminating corrosion issues from salt water and provides long lifetime.
In terms of cost-effectiveness, CorPower WECs can harvest the same AEP from a buoy with 1/10 volume compared to conventional point absorber WEC. By comparison, a 300kW CorPower WEC has a size of 9x18m and weighs 60 tonnes, where other wave devices may be hundreds of meters in dimension and several thousand tonnes for the same capacity. Getting large amounts of electricity from a small device significantly reduces CAPEX. The compact lightweight devices are also less costly to transport, install and service, bringing down OPEX.
Which are the biggest hurdles you need to overcome right now?
One of the greatest challenges for wave energy remains establishing its reputation as a solid and reliable renewable energy investment option. In order to do this, we must continue to rigorously test our WECs, collecting substantial amounts of data over a prolonged period of time, to essentially ‘prove’ our technology beyond any doubt.
CorPower has already invested in a decade of product development, which at the starting point was based on three decades of research on wave hydrodynamics. Crucially, we have also adopted a five-stage product verification program, which is recognized as best practice in the sector and involves a step-by-step validation of survivability, performance, reliability and economics ensuring the business case is supported by physical and economic metrics in each stage from small scale models (2012) to full scale array product (2023).
The purpose of this process is to address risks in a managed way early within the product development process, while costs are still limited due to the smaller device scale and team size. This provides a clear path to reach a bankable product with the least time, money and risk. It marks a sharp contrast to accelerated timelines and rapid scaling that has pushed many other ocean energy projects to failure.
Another crucial part of our strategy has involved dry testing each machine in controlled simulated wave loading on-land, to fully debug and stabilize the machines prior to ocean deployment. The WECs must also undergo a further rigorous certification process with DNV-GL and independent third-party performance validation from internationally renowned entities including EMEC and WavEC.
To date, Corpower has completed three stages of the verification process which began with small scale testing in Portugal and France. A half-scale system was constructed during stage 3 before demonstrations began in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, in partnership with utility Iberdrola CorPower has successfully secured circa 32million EUR in funding with the total outlay for phase 4 and 5 activities pegged at 55million EUR, to effectively bring the technology to market.