Startup wants to put solar arrays on wave energy generators, along with wind turbines

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Sinn Power of Gauting, Germany combines wave, wind and solar power for the “first floating ocean hybrid platform.”

The wave energy startup has received a total of $6.2 million from Schweizer Kapital and a German government ministry since its founding in 2014. According to a Forbes article, the firm hopes to offer solar panel manufacturers the chance to test PV solar arrays on a floating platform at Heraklion, off the Greek coast, as part of an off-grid energy platform.

CEO Philipp Sinn told Forbes,“The floating platform can supply renewable energy to islands across the world … and contribute to the worldwide implementation of offshore wind farms.” The modular unit can be equipped with a 20 kW solar array and up to four small 6 kWp wind turbines.

Sinn Power wants to provide “people living near coasts all over the world with access to clean electricity,” and “turn the unlimited power of ocean waves into clean and cost-efficient energy.” Sinn claims to operate fully functional prototypes at its research location in Heraklion and is “on the verge” of commercializing its technology.

Despite the potential energy held within waves and tides, the wave and tidal energy industry has been stuck in its demonstration phase for decades — unable to overcome immense technical and financial hurdles. A renewable energy investment bubble sent capital to wave companies in the aughts but recent funding has largely been restricted to government programs for demonstrations and tests.

Bankruptcies

The wave and tidal energy market is littered with bankruptcies and retreat at companies such as Aquamarine Power, Finnevera Renewables, OceanLinx, Pelamis, WaveGen and more. The companies remaining in the market such as Verdant Power, Nova Innovation or Wave Star Energy are, at best, niche power providers for oil and gas, defense, and research. Ocean Power Technologies, the only publicly-listed wave energy firm had revenue of $0.6 million and $0.5 million during the twelve months ended April 30, 2019 and 2018, respectively.

It’s feasible that wave energy equipment can be made reliable, just as the offshore drilling industry has demonstrated with its hardware — but it’s very expensive. The marine energy industry was non-competitive twenty years ago and is even less competitive now — with the advent of cheap natural gas, offshore wind and on-shore solar.

The artist’s renderings for the platform include small wind turbines and ducted wind turbines — inefficient solutions both. As for putting roof-top solar panels and electronics on the open ocean — check your warranty and IEC 61701 salt mist corrosion testing.

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Correction: Verdant Power, contrary to our earlier reporting, is alive and well. The company received $6 million in funding in late 2018 from the U.S. Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for its Gen 5 turbine system. We apologize for the error.