Ocean Oasis’ Gaia system is designed to use wave power to desalinate water.
Plans to use ocean energy to desalinate water received further impetus this week, when a Norwegian company presented a system that will be put to the test in Gran Canaria waters.
In a statement Monday, Ocean Oasis, headquartered in Oslo, said the wave-driven prototype device, which it described as an “offshore floating desalination plant,” was called Gaia.
The installation – which is 10 meters high, 7 meters in diameter and weighs about 100 tonnes – was built in Las Palmas and will be tested on an ocean platform off the Canary Islands.
Ocean Oasis said its technology would “enable the production of fresh water from ocean water by harnessing the energy of waves to run the desalination process and pump drinking water to coastal users.”
The company said development of its prototype has received funding from several organizations, including Innovation Norway and the Gran Canaria Economic Promotion Society.
The main investor in Ocean Oasis is Grigg Maritime Group, headquartered in Bergen, Norway.
The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the Canary Islands Institute of Technology, the islands have “been a pioneer in the production of desalinated water at an affordable price”.
A presentation from ITC highlights some of the reasons for this. It describes the “water peculiarity” of the Canary Islands and refers to “structural water scarcity due to low rainfall, high soil permeability and over-exploitation of aquifers”.
Desalination – described by the multinational energy company Iberdrola as “the process of removing dissolved mineral salts from water” – is seen as a useful tool when it comes to countries with access to drinking water. Where supply is a problem, the United Nations notes that significant environmental problems are associated with it.
It states that “fossil fuels are often used in an energy-intensive desalination process that contributes to global warming, and toxic brine pollutes coastal ecosystems.”
With the above in mind, projects to desalinate water in a more sustainable way will become increasingly important in the coming years.
The idea of using waves to power desalination is not unique to the project being launched in the Canary Islands. For example, in April the US Department of Energy announced the winners of the final phase of a wave-driven desalination competition.
Back in the Canary Islands, Ocean Oasis said it is looking for a second installation after testing at the PLOCAN facility. “In this phase, the prototype will be scaled up with the ability to produce water for consumption,” the company said.
While there is enthusiasm about the potential of ocean energy, the footprint of wave and tidal stream projects is very small compared to other renewable energies.
In data released in March 2022, Ocean Energy Europe said 2.2 MW of tidal power capacity was installed in Europe last year, compared to just 260 kW in 2020.
For wave power, 681 kW was installed, which OEE described as a tripling. Globally, 1.38 MW of wave power will come online in 2021, while 3.12 MW of tidal stream capacity will be installed.
In comparison, according to data from the industry organization WindEurope, Europe will install 17.4 gigawatts of wind power in 2021.