Ocean Oasis’ Gaia system is designed to use wave power to desalinate water.
Plans to use marine energy to desalinate water received further impetus 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, 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 has a height of 10 meters, a diameter of 7 meters and weighs about 100 tons – was assembled in Las Palmas and will be tested on the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands.
Ocean Oasis said its technology “would enable the production of fresh water from ocean water by harnessing the energy of the waves to run a desalination process and pump drinking water to coastal users.”
The company said development of its prototype had received funding from a range of organizations including Innovation Norway and the Gran Canaria Economic Promotion Society.
The main investor in Ocean Oasis is Grieg 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 the ITC highlights some of the reasons why. It describes the “water singularities” of the Canary Islands and refers to a “structural water shortage due to low rainfall, high soil permeability and over-exploitation of aquifers”.
While desalination — what multinational energy company Iberdrola describes as “the process of removing the dissolved mineral salts in water” – seen as a useful tool when it comes to supplying drinking water to countries where supply is a problem, the UN has noted that there are significant environmental challenges associated with it to be .
It says that “the fossil fuels normally 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 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 carried out 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 would be looking for a second installation after testing at the PLOCAN facility. “In this phase, the prototype will be scaled 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 stream projects remains very small compared to other renewables.
In data released in March 2022, Ocean Energy Europe said 2.2 megawatts of tidal power capacity was installed in Europe last year, compared to just 260 kilowatts in 2020.
For wave power, 681 kW was installed, which was a threefold increase according to OEE. Globally, 1.38 MW of wave power came online in 2021, while 3.12 MW of tidal stream capacity was installed.
By way of comparison: Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power in 2021, according to figures from industry organization WindEurope.