Ocean Oasis’ Gaia system has been designed to use wave energy to desalinate water.
Plans to use marine energy to desalinate water got a further boost this week, after a Norwegian company presented a system that will be put to the test in the waters off Gran Canaria.
In a statement Monday, Oslo-based Ocean Oasis said its wave-powered prototype device, described as a “floating offshore desalination plant,” is called Gaia.
The plant – which is 10 meters tall, 7 meters in diameter and weighs about 100 tons – is assembled in Las Palmas and will undergo testing at the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands.
Ocean Oasis says its technology will enable “production of fresh water from seawater by harnessing the energy of waves to perform desalination and to pump potable water to coastal users.”
The company says its prototype development has received financial support from a range of organizations including Innovation Norway and the Gran Canaria Economic Promotion Association.
Ocean Oasis’s main investor is Grieg Maritime Group, headquartered in Bergen, Norway.
The Canary Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the Canary Islands Institute of Technology, the archipelago is “a pioneer in the affordable production of desalinated water.”
Presentation by ITC Emphasize some of the reasons why. Describing the “water singularities” of the Canary Islands, it refers to “structural water deficits due to low rainfall, high soil permeability, and aquifer overexploitation.”
During desalination — which multinational energy company Iberdrola described as “the process of removing dissolved mineral salts from water” — seen as a useful tool when providing drinking water to countries where supply is an issue, the United Nations has noted that there are significant environmental challenges associated with it.
It says that “fossil fuels commonly used in energy-intensive desalination contribute to global warming and the toxic brine it produces pollutes coastal ecosystems.”
With this in mind, projects that seek to desalinate water in a more sustainable way will become increasingly important in the coming years.
The idea of using waves for desalination is not unique to the project being worked on in the Canaries. For example, in April, the US Department of Energy reveal the winners of the final stage of the competition focused on wave energy desalination.
Back in the Canary Islands, Ocean Oasis said it will look to build a second installation after testing at the PLOCAN facility has taken place. “During this phase, the prototype will be scaled up with the ability 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 is still very small compared to other renewables.
In data published in March 2022, Ocean Energy Europe says 2.2 megawatts of tidal stream capacity was installed in Europe last year, compared with just 260 kilowatts in 2020.
For wave power, 681 kW was installed, which OEE says is a threefold increase. Globally, 1.38 MW of wave power is operational by 2021, while 3.12 MW of tidal stream capacity has been installed.
By comparison, Europe has installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind capacity by 2021, according to figures from industry body WindEurope.