The second panel of the IPBN's World Maritime Day Blue Economy Conference focused on offshore energy renewables. Aoife Healy, Chair of the IPBN Board and founding partner at Pathway Consulting moderated the discussion with guest speaker Ana Brito e Melo, Senior Advisor and Head of Strategic Studies from WavEC Offshore Renewables.
After Healy’s brief welcome, the conversation began with a summary of Brito e Melo’s role at WavEC, a nonprofit organization devoted to the promotion of Marine renewable energies and ocean-related technology, principally funded by the European Commission. WavEC was created in 2003 as an idea to innovate wave energy in Portugal on the Atlantic coast, supported by Institute Superior Téchnico, which gave them assistance in getting the necessary licenses to install technology into the water and in connecting the industry with academia. In 2007, they were approached by EDP to investigate the potential for offshore wind, what Brito e Melo described as “our big chance…At the time there was floating offshore wind being investigated so we organized a workshop inviting international experts to this area…and this is how we got started.”
The field of offshore wind is developing very quickly. In the North Sea, there are offshore wind farms, but this is growing into deeper waters. “There are organizations, and international initiatives like Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition (OREAC), pushing for the development of offshore wind in the world…In Portugal, there’s also much attention for offshore wind.” This coalition is pushing a target of 1,400 gigawatts by 2050. They have also estimated that Portugal’s potential for offshore wind is around 130 gigawatts, going up to 200 km from the coast at depths of about 1,000 meters, and wave energy compliments this potential, according to Brito e Melo.
In terms of how far away we are from commercializing wave energy, Brito e Melo says it is an emerging technology. Wave energy has been progressing slowly but is achieving important milestones as an important future source of energy for grid systems. “It’s still far from commercialization…CorePower, a Swedish technology has tested a prototype in Scotland, and now they are building the first wave farm in Portugal- the first wave farm in the world…[WavEc has] been following their progress step by step.”
When it comes to WavEc’s support to developers, they provide services in maintenance, logistics, technology and troubleshooting, monitoring, evaluation, and more. They are actively promoting their two test sites in Portugal (in Aguçadora and Viana do Castelo) for use in pre-commercial prototype testing. If a developer needs help commercializing an activity or technological solution, WavEc guides them from start to finish, depending on the needs of the client. “If a developer wants to see what is the viability of his concept in terms of the technology or economics, it starts at this point. If it’s a project that seems to be viable, then there is a long process to go, starting by dealing with the licensing process…the studies the developer needs to build his prototype…it depends on the project…We should not run to have a [wave energy] device in the water. It has to follow a process, step by step…we cannot go to the water with a product that is not robust…this is millions you will put in the water, so you want to be sure about this technology. Offshore wind is a different scale.”
The next topic discussed was WavEc’s role in offshore Portugal’s aquaculture projects. In both marine renewable energy and offshore aquaculture, you need to find the right location and conditions, so WaveEc can help define the right spot for the initiatives. Questions from the audience on using renewable energy to produce hydrogen, the storage and transport of offshore and wave energy versus land energy, near-shore and on-shore wave technology, and the potential for offshore energy as a whole to assume 10% of the worldwide energy consumption. In essence, audience members were shown the vast array of exactly what offshore and wave energy can provide in the future. On November 30, WavEc is organizing their annual seminar, this time virtually with the Japanese Embassy, with EcoWave Power as a keynote speaker, available online to anyone interested in joining.