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"