Ocean Oasis’ Gaia system was designed to use wave energy to desalinate water.
Plans to use marine energy to desalinate water received a further boost this week after a Norwegian firm unveiled a system to be tested in the waters off Gran Canaria.
In a statement on Monday, Oslo-based Ocean Oasis said its prototype wave-powered device, which it described as a “coastal floating desalination plant,” was called Gaia.
The plant – which is 10 meters high, 7 meters in diameter and weighs around 100 tonnes – was built in Las Palmas and will be tested on the Canary Islands ocean platform.
Ocean Oasis said its technology will enable “the production of fresh water from ocean waters by harnessing wave energy to carry out the desalination process and pump drinking water to coastal users”.
The company said the development of its prototype received financial support from a number of organisations, including Innovation Norway and the Gran Canaria Economic Promotion Society.
The main investor of Ocean Oasis is Grieg Maritime Group, based in Bergen, Norway.
The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the Canary Institute of Technology, the islands “pioneered the production of desalinated water at an affordable price”.
Presentation from ITC points out some reasons. It describes the “water singularities of the Canary Islands” and refers to “structural water scarcity due to low rainfall, high soil permeability and overexploitation of aquifers”.
While desalination — which multinational energy firm Iberdrola describes as “a process by which dissolved mineral salts are removed from water” – it is considered a useful tool when it comes to providing drinking water to countries where supply is a problem, the UN has noted that there are significant environmental problems associated with it.
It says “the fossil fuels commonly used in the energy-intensive desalination process contribute to global warming, and the toxic brine it produces pollutes coastal ecosystems.”
With the above in mind, projects seeking to desalinate water in a more sustainable way will become increasingly important in the coming years.
The idea of using waves to drive desalination is not unique to the project being carried out in the Canary Islands. In April, for example, the US Department of Energy they revealed the winner the final stages of the wave desalination competition.
Ocean Oasis in the Canary Islands said it would like to build a second installation after testing at the PLOCAN facility. “At this stage, the prototype will be modified with the capacity to produce water for consumption,” the company said.
While there is excitement about the potential of marine energy, the footprint of wave and tidal current projects remains very small compared to other renewables.
According to data published in March 2022 Ocean Energy Europe said 2.2 megawatts of tidal current capacity was installed in Europe last year, compared to just 260 kilowatts in 2020.
For wave energy, 681 kW were installed, a threefold increase according to OEE. Globally, 1.38 MW of wave power was connected in 2021, while 3.12 MW of tidal current capacity was installed.
By comparison, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity in 2021, according to industry body WindEurope.