Shaped by the sea over thousands of millennia, the Rock is harnessing those same forces of Nature to provide a fresh source of renewable, eco-friendly energy, and by next year this should provide a steady 5MW – enough each day to provide electricity for at least 400 households for a year.
Eventually the Gibraltar Wave Farm, developed by an Israeli firm, could provide up to a third of Gibraltar’s energy needs.
The project, on the site of the World War II ammunition jetty near Gorham’s Cave, is Europe’s first commercial, grid-connected wave energy power station. And though it is not the first development to use the movement of tides and waves to generate energy – half a century ago, an early trial system in Patagonia harness a massive 17-metre tidal change to do so – the Eco Wave Power ‘farm’ is simpler than many.
Though scientifically sophisticated, the system is relatively simple. A float which moves up and down with the waves, moves a piston to compress a hydraulic fluid into a storage accumulator. When the compressed fluid is released the resulting energy drives an hydraulic motor which then turns an electric generator – producing clean energy while returning the spent fluid back to the compressor.
Given the ocean’s power, wave energy has long been a promising source of renewable energy. In the past 15 years companies have developed various designs, including a snake-like apparatus with hinged joints from a pioneering Scottish company that connected wave power to the grid in 2004; a tube-like device from Ocean Power Technologies of New Jersey; and bobbing buoys similar to Eco Wave’s system developed by another Scots firm.
When initially launched April 2016 Gibraltar’s wave farm generated only100 KW, but this in is to be expanded to at least 5 MtW within the next two years. Operating through a 25-year power purchase agreement between Eco Wave Power, the Government, and the Gibraltar Electricity Authority, at full capacity the farm is expected to generate 15% of the Rock’s total electricity consumption. Funded partly by the European Regional Development Fund, and partly by private investors it will help bring Gibraltar in line with the EU’s renewable energy goal – to generate a fifth of all requirements by renewable power by 2020.
Describing the wave farm as ‘pioneering’, at last May’s official launch Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told journalists:
‘At last we are seeing the grid fed with renewable energy, something that was long overdue …But it’s even more exciting than that. This is the first time, in the whole of Europe, that a renewable wave energy system is linked into an electricity grid. The Gibraltarians are here pioneers in our partnership with Eco Wave Power…’
And, confirming the technology, Environment, and Climate Change Minister, John Cortes added ‘This is clearly working. I think that the future is bright and the future, like the past all those six million years ago, is in the power of the sea all around us.’
— ?? Reuven Azar (@ReuvenAzar) August 28, 2016
Eco Wave Power, which was established after lengthy planning to provide a new and competitive wave energy technology. ‘Such technology enables [us] to deliver effective, sustainable, practical, feasible, and affordable wave energy solutions, which are responsive to the needs of local communities, cities, and countries worldwide’, the firm says on its website.
Due to our awareness to the oscillating need of renewable energy sources, Eco Wave Power has developed and commercialized its 100% owned patents, which are capable of producing large amounts of affordable, zero-emission renewable power
‘The energy convertor is an award-winning, inexpensive technology, to harvest wave energy from high and low waves. It is designed to be simple and robust.’