The transition to net-zero energy systems will one of the biggest societal and industrial topics for coming decades. CorPower is pleased to work with Future Cleantech Architects on how clean energy from the oceans will accelerate this transition.

Patrik Möller
CorPower Ocean
Stockholm, Sweden

In order to make your technology understandable, it is important to describe it well in few words. We have asked some of our key innovators for a short interview.

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.

Upon reaching sufficient maturity, what will it take to introduce the technology broadly and quickly to have major impact?

In order to be successful, the technology must secure validation from independent academic and scientific spheres combined with strong support of energy developers to demonstrate market confidence. Corpower’s technology is already receiving broad support across Europe from organisations including InnoEnergy, the Swedish Energy Agency, European Commission and Wave Energy Scotland. Major players within industry are also engaging including EDP, Simply Blue Energy, and ABB.

Speaking more broadly, global wave energy efforts would greatly benefit from ring fenced revenue support to accelerate deployment of the first 100s of MWs by 2025-3030. This comes at a low cost, benefiting countries supporting the development such as the UK, Ireland, Portugal, France, US and Norway.

There is also of course a need to raise greater global awareness of wave energy’s massive potential as a contributor to our future clean energy mix. We are strong proponents of combined ocean energy arrays, and the adoption of wave energy technology in pre-existing offshore energy sites.

While wind and solar play significant roles to decarbonize our electricity systems, their intermittency and low predictability result in volatility in the electricity markets. Already today, markets with high penetration of wind and solar see negative electricity prices when it is windy or sunny over larger regions, and price spikes when production is insufficient to meet demand. Wave farms owners (our customers) will have a generation asset producing electricity that can be sold at higher average prices with a LCOE on par with other renewables, offering a higher margin business.

Wave energy also provides a balancing source that enables high penetration of wind and solar at the lowest possible system cost. It also works hand-in-hand with hydrogen production, with a wind-solar-wave electricity mix offering a more constant operation with higher profitability for electrolyse operators.

In the lowest cost zero-carbon scenarios, renewable hydrogen will be used primarily for industry and transport, while wave energy and other complimentary electricity sources help balance the electricity system without requiring as much long-term storage capacity. Ultimately, wave energy will have a key role in the lowest-cost route to reach 100% renewables, and this needs to be increasingly communicated in the years leading up to commercial maturity.