September 24, 2014

Finnish wave technology makes a splash

Wello’s Penguin is a vessel, which floats on the surface of the water while anchored to the seabed, allowing it to convert the rocking and rolling motion to energy.
Wello’s Penguin is a vessel, which floats on the surface of the water while anchored to the seabed, allowing it to convert the rocking and rolling motion to energy.
Wello

It’s been a big month for Finnish companies harnessing the power of waves to generate electricity. AW-Energy secured nearly 15 million euros in funding to advance the commercialisation of its WaveRoller technology while Wello announced the latest results of its full-scale wave energy converter installed in Orkney, Scotland.

The WaveRoller operates in near-shore locations. Installed on the ocean floor about eight to 20 metres below the surface, the device features a moveable, fin-like panel which converts the back and forth movement of water to electricity.

In addition to its demonstration power plant, which has been operating in Portugal since 2012, AW-Energy has ongoing projects in Ireland, France, UK, Chile and the US.

“We are in the valley between demonstration and full commercialisation, says CEO,” John Liljelund. 

“There are sizeable opportunities on the table that we are looking to materialise in the next one to two years maximum.”

Harsh conditions

For AW-Energy, the 14.8 million euros provided by the Finnish funding agency for technology and innovation and the European Union is a welcome boost.

The WaveRoller features a moveable, fin-like panel which converts the back and forth movement of water to electricity.

The WaveRoller features a moveable, fin-like panel which converts the back and forth movement of water to electricity.

AW-Energy

“It helps us a lot with our commercialisation plans, taking one of the first-of-its-kind devices into the field to operate it in a real environment and then expanding and establishing the first commercial wave farm.”

Wello’s Penguin is a vessel, which floats on the surface of the water while anchored to the seabed, allowing it to convert the rocking and rolling motion to energy.

The device requires about 40-50 metres of water depth and in Orkney lies about two kilometres from the shore. It has completed three years of testing and is now moving towards pre-commercial piloting, a phase expected to take about five years.

CEOs of both companies know the way ahead is not plain sailing:

“In offshore conditions, the biggest challenge is that you can face waves the size of a four storey building every 10 seconds so you have to have a device tolerant of very harsh conditions,” says Aki Luukkainen, CEO of Espoo-based Wello. 

“It’s also a totally new industry so you can’t learn from other industries. But, above all, the way forward is dependent on funding and political decision making.”

Growing optimism

As yet there are no commercial wave-power facilities operating anywhere in the world so just how much electricity consumption could be satisfied with wave energy remains speculative. 

“We believe that the practical potential that we can introduce with this technology is equal to what’s been the installed capacity [2-300 gigawatts] with the wind at the moment,” says Liljelund.

“We can deliver one really important piece of the puzzle we need for the renewable mix.”

Optimism in the new technology is growing on many fronts. In mid-August, AW-Energy signed a deal with the independent certification organisation Lloyd’s Register Energy to review the entire project lifecycle of the WaveRoller technology.

Earlier this month, Finnish power utility Fortum, which is already a shareholder in AW-Energy, bought a 13.6 per cent stake in Wello. 

“Still today, 60 per cent of electricity is produced from fossil fuels so any renewable energy we can introduce into this mix is helpful. This is our inspiration,” says Luukkainen.

“60 per cent of electricity is produced from fossil fuels so any renewable energy we can introduce into this mix is helpful”, says Aki Luukkainen, CEO of Wello.

“60 per cent of electricity is produced from fossil fuels so any renewable energy we can introduce into this mix is helpful”, says Aki Luukkainen, CEO of Wello.

Wello

Text: Vincent Landon

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