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  1. Newstatesman Gibraltar
15 December 2015

Wave power scheme continues unabated

Gibraltar’s aims at exceeding EU targets for sustainable energy have taken a step forward. The Minister involved, Dr. John Cortes, explains.

By Guy Clapperton

Earlier this year this news hub reported on the beginnings of a new departure in power on Gibraltar, as plans for a wave power station or two emerged. This was to be supplied by Israeli company Eco Wave Power (EWP) in conjunction with others including Gibelec and the Ministry for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change on the Rock itself.

EWP has issued a press release confirming that the project is maturing nicely, and the Minister responsible for the project has been talking to the New Statesman.

From EWP’s point of view, the news is that the EU has approved the Power Purchase Agreement so the scheme is in good health. “During the first phase, Eco Wave Power will implement a 100KW power station on the Ammunition Jetty, and in the second phase the power plant will be expanded to a size of 5MW, which will provide up to 15% of Gibraltar’s electricity needs,” says the announcement. “This percentage will enable Gibraltar to meet its renewable energy commitments to the EU by 2020. 

“The Grant for Eco Wave Power has been provided as part of the EU Funding under the 2014-2020 European Regional Development Fund Operational Programme in  support for renewable energy that is meant to ensure that Gibraltar has secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy, while using wiser energy production methods to combat climate change and creating business innovation. “

The extremely positive news is that the idea of sustainable energy isn’t going to stop at 15% on the Rock.

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Dr. Cortes takes up the story, starting with the background. “We’ve been working with EWP for probably a year and a half. They had heard that Gibraltar wanted to move into renewable energy which hadn’t happened before we were elected.” The company based a proposal on its existing technology in Israel and after some due diligence the government and Gibelec came up with a power purchase agreement. “The understanding being that they would make the investment themselves, we would provide the ability to connect to their system – in other words the cable up to their plant – and they would charge us for the electricity they generate.”

This was a pilot scheme and to really make it fly will take some re-engineering. “Our infrastructure can’t take large amounts of renewable energy in one go,” explained Dr. Cortes. “It’s a very small, closed system. So we went for a trial of half a megawatt. If that works, we will upgrade to a plant in a different location of around five megawatts.”

To ensure that the scheme is workable, Gibelec has employed a renewable electricity engineer and he has visited Israel to watch the existing installation in action. “We’ve extended a cable down to the site on the Eastern side of Gibraltar; the Jetty is now being reinforced to allow for it…and we’re hoping it will be up and running in a few weeks’ time,” explained Dr. Cortes. “Assuming this succeds we’re identifying another site to the north of the existing one for the five megawatt facility.”

The new location with EWP will in and of itself bring the power generated up to the level needed to comply with the EU (which wants 15%) but it won’t exist in isolation so Gibraltar is aiming to produce 20% of its power sustainably by 2020. “EWP means to provide 15% but we’re working with another company, Blue Shark, which is looking at deploying not wave power but marine current energy.” That company has also been to Gibraltar looking at current speeds and, says Dr. Cortes, literally testing the water.

“We’re also looking at placing solar panels on a number of rooftops in Gibraltar, which would bring this up to about 40-45%,” he said.

The official target remains 20% against an EU commitment of 15% – the New Statesman’s Gibraltar hub will continue to keep readers up to date.