Interview: Device mimicking coral reef raises waves off Spain

Arrecife Energy’s 1:10 scale prototype under trials off Spain (Photo: Arrecife Energy Systems)

Bilbao-based wave energy company Arrecife Energy Systems is making progress on the development of its wave energy system whose design was inspired by the coral reefs and their efficiency in absorbing the energy of the waves.

Arrecife Energy Systems was created 2 years ago as a result of the study on wave behaviors, conducted by José Javier Doria, and years of research in the fields of turbine design.

The observations led to the idea of creating a device equipped with cross flow turbines, composed of multiple blades placed in series, in order to maximize the energy absorption of waves by simulating a coral reef.

In this regard, Tidal Energy Today talked to Arrecife Enegy’s Chief Executive, Oscar Villanueva Cañizares, who confirmed the wave energy device is currently at the technology readiness level (TRL) 6, with plans to roll out the first full-scale commercial unit in 2020.

“The system generates electricity due to the opposition of the direct-action cross flow turbines which form our wave energy converter (WEC). The movement is converted to electricity through a hydraulic system and electrical components like generators and the power take off equipment,” said Villanueva Cañizares.

Arrecife Energy’s team (Photo: Arrecife Energy Systems)

The company has over the past couple of months conducted trials on a 1:10 scale prototype, but without any electrical parts, or grid connection on the device.

Villanueva Cañizares said the trials were meant to test only the mechanical aspects of the device, including the moorings, immersion system and general behavior at open sea conditions.

He added, however, the company plans to build a larger device that will be tested in 2018, either at the Biscay Marine Energy Platform (Bimep) or at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), depending on the future agreements.

“Our goal is to build a large-scale, grid-connected Arrecife WEC to test it in 2018. Meanwhile, we’re going to stay for 6 months in Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC-MIT) in Massachusetts to develop and improve the technology and validate our business model,” explained Villanueva Cañizares.

Arrecife Energy’s 1:10 scale prototype (Photo: Arrecife Energy Systems)

The capacity of the full-scale device will rise up to 265kW for the area of the Bay of Biscay, north of Spain, Villanueva Cañizares said. He also noted that the capacity could be increased up to 1.6MW for locations with appropriate wave conditions, such as those found in Northern Ireland.

Arrecife Energy sees its system’s application in various fields, including offshore wind, heating, and oil & gas sectors. Villanueva Cañizares said it could also be used to power fish farms, and ‘green’ resorts.

“Our WEC is adaptable to great depths and of course to existing offshore facilities that have energy needs and are surrounded by water and waves,” concluded Villanueva Cañizares.

Interview prepared by Amir Garanovic