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Gibraltar: on the crest of a wave

Everybody wants their power production to be as sustainable as possible – Gibraltarians are doing something about it, with the first step to be accomplished by the end of this year.

Gibraltar is trying to go green but there are obstacles. You want to put a wind farm in place? Certainly, in theory it’s a good idea but there are difficulties – such as the complete absence of space. There simply isn’t a wind farm shaped space on the Rock. There is one other answer, though; all but surrounding Gibraltar is a massive resource – the sea.

Tidal and wave energy is going to become very big for the Gibraltarian population even if they won’t notice the difference in how their power is provided.

It started in 2014 when the HM Government of Gibraltar signed a 5MW Power Purchasing Agreement with Eco Wave Power (EWP), an Israeli wave energy power company with its own patented technology. “The Government was looking for a renewable energy source that could be implemented in Gibraltar,” said EWP co-founder and marketing director Inna Braverman. “This was because Gibraltar had committed to the EU that it would get 15% of its electricity from renewable sources.”

Other than the impracticalities of wind power, the other option open was solar power. Once again sheer space defeated the idea; the climate is perfect but there isn’t enough roof space or open space to generate sufficient power – at least not without ruining the natural beauty of the Rock, confirmed Braverman. The ocean quickly emerged as the only way.

There will be two stages to the build, explained co-founder and CEO David Leb. There will be an operational smaller scale power station  in the water by the end of the year and the rest will be a year and a half to install, dependent on the availability of suitable ocean structure for the installation, he said. Braverman explained that the first stage will be the power station which will have eight floaters to pick up the power from the waves, to be built on the existing ammunition pier. “For the next stage we need a bigger space, so we couldn’t use the old pier; we’ll probably do it in the new marina or at least in a larger space.”

The technology is fairly standard on the land, explained Leb, while everything on the breakwater is tailored for each individual case. “The power station to harness electricity from the waves is based on the ground breaking technology that we have. We adapt the floaters for different locations and different places, so that’s made specifically for Gibraltar; the power station is pretty much standard.”

The technology involved will be innovative. At the moment EWP is experimenting with two sorts of floaters, the 1st generation version which is deployed in its Jaffa Port, Israel installation, but it’s building towards a 2nd generation version for Gibraltar.

 "We have come up with smarter components, higher-grade materials, and state of the art controls and automation allowing us to control the system remotely while monitoring its important indicators; this is in parallel to our progress in the deployment of the new power plant in Gibraltar,: said Braverman and Leb in the official announcement. “We would like to invite all our potential partners, clients and investors to come and visit the power station in Jaffa and witness the tremendous efforts that were invested by us"

Gibraltar is one of the few countries in Europe that appears to be doing something about its 15% commitment to electricity generation and its deadline is 2020; according to Leb, that 15% is about as far as it’s likely to go unless something dramatic changes. “It’s about space, we don’t have the space to add more, but I’m sure Gibraltar has its own ideas of bringing in further renewable energy sources just like any other countries in the world.” Braverman adds that  for the first time there are solar powered roofs in Gib, which  will not be creating commercial amounts of electricity but are sending some power back to the grid and showing positive progress towards renewables. “Our solution plus some less space-intensive ideas should enable Gibraltar to meet its EU obligation.”

EWP’s credibility as a provider has been underscored by Erasmus University, which has given it an award. The judges said: " Eco Wave Power's split units are well-engineered and smart with high potential for producing decentralized energy. The manufacturing costs sound interesting - a system with high potential"

Guy Clapperton is the freelance journalist who edits the New Statesman’s Gibraltar hub. You can also find him in the Guardian, Computer Business Review and Professional Outsourcing which he edits.

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Gibraltar and Europe: caught in the slipstream?

The British papers are full of who has the lead in the European in or out campaigns – Guy Clapperton considers the fallout for the smaller territories

Let’s start by acknowledging that there is no clear pattern emerging in the Europe debate, as long as we understand “Europe debate” to mean whether the UK should stay in or leave the European Union. This week alone we’ve seen Boris Johnson “warning Obama off” (as the BBC put it) getting involved in the debated, the same London Mayor and MP having a radio spat with Chuka Umunna involving telling each other to man up and various insults traded as either side accuses the other of scaremongering or making it up as they go along.

Divining who’s going to win is more difficult. The Daily Telegraph reports that “out” has it by a tiny margin but, crucially, the anti-Europe vote is likely to be more motivated so will actually show up on the day, expanding the margin by which it will win. Meanwhile the Times’ daily Red Box email points to Elections Etc. whose research suggests a 58% “remain” vote but with a plus or minus 14% error margin; so somewhere between 44% and 72% will go for staying in the EU. This, readers will note, tells us precisely nothing.

So the outcome, even if there weren’t 100 days in which Presidents and world leaders will offer counsel, claims and counterclaims will be made and the “leave” campaign will eventually decide who the official “leave” group actually is (there are two factions at the moment, doing the best impression of the Monty Python Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea that they can manage), we wouldn’t want to call a snap referendum even if it were to be called this afternoon.

What’s clear is that the outcome will ripple beyond the British mainland’s shores, and the ramifications of an “out” vote are already being felt on Gibraltar. Anyone doubting this should check today’s Times (subscription required), in which the Gibraltarian Chief Minister Fabian Picardo highlights recent Spanish statements about what would happen in the event of a Brexit.

Spain actually caused a few eyebrows to raise and some other people to panic just a little with its recent statements. Essentially the country’s foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, suggested that there would be conversations on the sovereignty of Gibraltar the “day after” an announcement of a British exit, according to the Daily Mail and other reports. He also said (much, much further down the report) that he didn’t want Britain to leave: “God forbid” is the phrase he uses.

He raised the idea of joint sovereignty once again more recently, reports the Gibraltar Chronicle, this time suggesting that if Britain leaves Europe then Gib could do what it nearly did (he says) in 2002 and start transitioning towards Spain. This is an interesting definition of “nearly” when 98.48% of the electorate actually voted not to do so, but remaining British when this might exclude the Rock from Europe would inevitably raise different issues if not a different final outcome.

Outside Gibraltarian interests the effect could be more severe than that. SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made no secret of her wish to make a fresh case for Scottish independence. The once-in-a-generation referendum on this was lost in 2014 but should Britain exit Europe with a majority of Scots clearly demonstrating that they want to stay in, the case becomes stronger (although the collapse of the oil price would blow the original blueprint out of the water).

So we could end up with Scotland as well as Gibraltar wanting to remain in Europe while Britain made its exit. Whether this would be legally possible if both stayed tied to Britain is untested as yet – and with Spain eager to enter talks the day after an exit is agreed but the Gibraltarians implacably opposed to becoming Spanish, the way forward would not be clear.

Guy Clapperton is the freelance journalist who edits the New Statesman’s Gibraltar hub. You can also find him in the Guardian, Computer Business Review and Professional Outsourcing which he edits.