Ocean Oasis’ Gaia system was designed to use wave energy to desalinate water.
Plans to use marine energy for desalination received an additional boost this week after a Norwegian firm unveiled a system that will be tested in waters off the coast of Gran Canaria.
In a statement Monday, Oslo-headquartered Ocean Oasis said its prototype wave-powered device, which it describes as an “offshore floating desalination plant,” is called Gaia.
The unit, 10 meters high, 7 meters in diameter and weighing about 100 tons, was assembled in Las Palmas and will be tested on the ocean platform of the Canary Islands.
Ocean Oasis said its technology will “produce fresh water from ocean waters by using wave energy to desalinate and supply drinking water to coastal users.”
The company said that the development of its prototype has received financial support from a number of organizations, including Innovation Norway and the Gran Canaria Economic Development Society.
The main investor in Ocean Oasis is the Grieg Maritime Group, headquartered in Bergen, Norway.
The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the Technological Institute of the Canary Islands, the islands were “pioneers in the production of desalinated water at an affordable price”.
Presentation from ITC highlights some of the reasons why. Describing the “water features” of the Canary Islands, he refers to “structural water scarcity due to low rainfall, high soil permeability and over-exploitation of aquifers”.
While desalination is what a multinational energy firm Iberdrola described as “the process of removing mineral salts dissolved in water” – is seen as a useful tool when it comes to supplying drinking water to countries where supply is a problem, the UN notes that serious environmental problems are associated with this.
It states that “fossil fuels, commonly used in the energy-intensive desalination process, are contributing to global warming, and the toxic brine they produce is polluting coastal ecosystems.”
Taking into account the above, projects aimed at more sustainable desalination will become increasingly important in the coming years.
The idea of using waves to desalinate water is not unique to a project in the Canary Islands. In April, for example, the US Department of Energy revealed the winners the last stage of the competition for wave desalination.
Back in the Canary Islands, Ocean Oasis said it would be looking to build a second unit after testing at the PLOCAN facility. “At this stage, the prototype will scale up with the ability to produce water for consumption,” the company said.
While the potential of marine energy is generating hype, the impact of wave and tidal projects remains very small compared to other renewable energy sources.
According to data published in March 2022, Ocean Energy Europe said 2.2 megawatts of tidal current power was installed in Europe last year, up from 260 kilowatts in 2020.
For wave energy, 681 kW was installed, which OEE said was a threefold increase. In 2021, 1.38 MW of wave energy was commissioned worldwide, and 3.12 MW of tidal power.
In comparison, according to industry organization WindEurope, 17.4 gigawatts of wind farms were installed across Europe in 2021.