Seabased, a wave energy company, recently secured a key bit of business in Africa to ensure the future growth of the company.
Clean Energy Pipeline caught up with Øivind Magnussen, CEO of Seabased, to discuss the company's plans to scale up the 'underdeveloped' wave power market, funding plans, and the development of the largest wave project in Africa.
Formed in 2006, Sweden-based Seabased hit global headlines in 2015 when it completed the world's first grid-connected multi-generator wave park in Sotenäs, Sweden. The expansion and prospects of the company in the years to come led to Finnish state-owned utility Fortum acquiring a 10% stake in Seabased last November.
What patents do you have for wave technology?
We have a comprehensive portfolio of unique, broadly written patents for the entire system from buoy to grid, as well as individual components.
It comprises more than 100 patents in some 20 patent families that are protected in multiple jurisdictions worldwide.
How does your technology work?
It's a turnkey system. The Seabased S2.7 is a simple, robust, scalable, linear generator that is placed on the seabed, ideally at a depth of 20-35 meters, and is optimized for medium wave climates.
Buoys on the surface are moved by the power of the waves and transmit the energy through steel lines to the generators, which convert the energy of the waves into AC electricity. Cables on the seabed carry the electrical energy to a switchgear that makes the electricity suitable for grid use.
Following your turnkey contract in Ghana, do you have any more pipeline projects?
Yes, we have some 100 MW in late-stage negotiations in regions as diverse as Latin America, the Caribbean, the Indian sub-continent, and South-East Asia.
Beyond that, we have specific projects in the pipeline totalling some 2,500 MW and our current visible opportunity is over 18,000 MW, or some $32 billion. Based on the amazing potential of the wave resource, the long term is almost easier to predict that the short term.
The market is underdeveloped; we are introducing a whole new vertical in utility scale renewable energy, and this requires extensive public-private cooperation. Ghana has demonstrated a great willingness to make this happen; it will be interesting to see which countries follow suit.
How is your business funded?
We've been very fortunate to have some amazing individuals and institutions who believe in what we are doing, and have stayed with us through thick and thin. Seabased has garnered funding from more than 400 private investors, pilot project customers, and grants. And now we're trying a new approach; we'll soon be opening an equity crowdfunding round on Invesdor.com.
The funds from this round will be used to scale production resources to meet demand, to continue to develop the R&D and testing processes, and for business development and general corporate purposes.
What is the potential of wave energy?
A comprehensive study by Mørk et al. from 2010 suggests a total global potential of about 3 TW when you exclude areas with a low wave resource and/or potential ice cover. If you multiply that by 8,760 hours per year — which gives you potential in TWh — you arrive at a number that is well over 100% of the electricity generated globally today.
From this point, you can discuss how much the industry will actually be able to realize. Wave technology can achieve a very high utilization factor for a renewable, because waves are energy dense, highly predictable and work 24/7. In a number of regions, wave technology can provide a base load to the grid without requiring batteries.
Furthermore, most of the world's big cities are located on coasts. So instead of the energy having to travel a great distance from the source to the consumer — which increases transmission costs — waves are proximate to the consumer.
The potential is enormous. It will be interesting to see which countries and regions will be the first to recognize this, and actively establish policies to encourage both wave power and marine renewables in general.
Markets and industry have to work hand in hand for wave power to become a mainstream energy source. I hope this 100 MW contract in Ghana inspires the marine renewable energy sector around the globe to step up even further, and transform the potential of clean, affordable wave power into reality.
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Source: Sonja van Linden Tol, Clean Energy Pipeline
Top image: Seabased