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In a world of ever-increasing carbon emissions, alternative zero-carbon electricity generation options are becoming more and more sought after. Solar, wind, biomass and other types are garnering more and more attention.
One Israeli start-up has focused on capturing a different type of energy - that of waves. SeaNergy has created a prototype system based on the concept of a child playing with a ball in a pool.
"Imagine a child thrusting a ball underneath the water and then letting it shoot up into the air. That's the concept behind our system," SeaNergy President Shlomo Gilboa told The Jerusalem Post last week at the WATEC international water technology exhibition in Tel Aviv. SeaNergy was one of the companies invited to set up a booth in the "Innovation" pavilion by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry's NEWTech division, which promotes Israeli water technologies around the world all year round and was one of the sponsors of WATEC.
Gilboa's team has built a buoy that rides the waves. At the top of the crest, and only at the top, the buoy unlocks and shoots upwards thus generating energy. As a result, the buoy can produce electricity with a zero carbon footprint, Gilboa said. The company claims their system produces much more energy than other wave-buoy devices.
However, over and above electricity production, the buoys can desalinate water. The buoy utilizes the pressure of the jump upwards at the wave's crest to push sea water through reverse osmosis membranes, turning sea water into distilled pure water.
What's more, SeaNergy's system would not require huge amounts of carbon-based electricity to run because it would produce its own electricity from the waves.
"With an area of 300 square meters, I could produce a million cubic meters of desalinated water per year," Gilboa estimated. By contrast, the large scale desalination plants being built along Israel's coast desalinate more than 100 million cubic meters per year each. Nevertheless, they require significant amounts of electricity to run. Gilboa also said that the cost of each cubic meter of water would be around 30 cents along Israel's rather placid coast and about four cents along more active coasts like Chile's.
The company said it would be placing its prototype into the Haifa port this month. Next year, they would continue testing in the quay of the Israel Electric Corporation near the power plant in Hadera.
The idea has taken years to develop, Gilboa said. He'd been toying with the idea for the last 15 years, and worked intensively over the last two to produce the prototype. Gilboa invested $2 million of his own money to develop the prototype.
"Now we're looking for bigger investors or customers for the next stage," he said.