Capturing the power of the waves

An interview with Inna Braverman, Co-Founder and CEO of Eco Wave Power

Words

Anne-Sophie Garrigou

This interview with Inna Braverman was featured in The Beam #10 – Local Heroes of the Energy Transition. Subscribe now to read more on the subject.


 

Wave energy has always been a personal mission for Inna Braverman. A mere two weeks after she was born in Ukraine, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded, causing the largest nuclear disaster in history. Braverman was one of the babies that suffered from the side effects related to the pollution caused by the explosion, and she suffered a respiratory arrest and clinical death. “Luckily, my mother, a nurse, came to my crib on time and gave me mouth to mouth resuscitation, which saved my life,” she recalls. 

“I felt like I got a second chance in life, and I really wanted to do something good with it,” explains the woman. At 24 years old, she started Eco Wave Power, an organisation that develops a solution that converts wave motion into power. “Two-thirds of the world population is living on the coastline and wave energy can produce twice the amount of electricity that the world produces now. In suitable locations, this energy is available around the clock, day and night,” explains Braverman, whose company is currently operating the only grid-connected wave energy array in the world.

How did people react when you first presented your solution?

Wave energy has been long known as a renewable energy source with a huge potential

However, most wave energy competitors chose to install their systems offshore, four to five kilometres into the sea. This comes with many challenges. One of them is high prices: offshore installation is extremely expensive and complicated. It requires ships, divers, underwater cabling and underwater mooring. Another issue with offshore projects is their low reliability as the wave energy power stations are exposed to wave heights of even 20 metres. Human-made stationary equipment has no way of avoiding and surviving such forces. Due to the high prices and low reliability of the offshore wave energy technology, no insurance company agreed to insure such stations, which makes it even more complicated for companies to start their projects. Last but not least, environmentalists, who should be the greatest proponents of wave energy, were objecting offshore wave energy, as it connects to the ocean floor and disturbs the marine environment and surroundings.

As a result, many of the investors and public actors were doubting the sector. So when Eco Wave Power came into the market, we knew that we have to solve the four above mentioned difficulties in order to be accepted by the market, and we did. Our solution is a cost-efficient solution and it is reliable, as most of our equipment is on land and therefore is not exposed to stormy marine conditions. In addition, Eco Wave Power has patented storm protection mechanisms. Our system is also fully insurable by known large scale global insurance companies and it is environmentally friendly. as it does not connect to the ocean floor, but only to existing structures such as piers, jetties and breakwaters. 

 

Your product converts wave motion into power, thanks to floats connected to terrestrial infrastructures. How does this work exactly?

The floaters draw energy from incoming waves by converting the rising and falling motion of the waves into a clean energy generation process. More precisely, the movement of the floaters compresses and decompresses hydraulic pistons which transmit biodegradable hydraulic fluid into land located accumulators. The pressure built in the accumulators drives the hydraulic motor to rotate, which rotates the generator, and then the electricity is transferred into the grid, via an inverter.

The fluid, after decompression, flows back into the hydraulic fluid tank, where it is then re-used by the pistons, thus creating a closed circular system. The system commences production of electricity from wave heights of 0.5 metres and the whole operation of the system is controlled and monitored by a smart automation system. When the waves are too high for the system to handle, the floaters automatically rise above the water level and stay in the upward position until the storm passes. Once the storm passes, the floaters return to the operation mode.

“I hope that Eco Wave Power’s journey will inspire and trigger some clear actions, including the promotion of the implementation of clean energy.”

Where do you currently operate and how much energy do you already produce globally with your system?

In total, we currently hold projects pipeline of 190MW and growing. We already have working power stations in Jaffa Port and in Gibraltar. In Jaffa Port, we operate our research and development site, where we develop new floaters shapes, automation system and different upgrades for the system. This year we have received funding from the Israeli government to expand the Jaffa Port project and connect it to the grid, and we are in the process of doing so.

In Gibraltar, we are currently operating the only grid-connected wave energy array in the world, which is operational in accordance with a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The first phase is 100KW and it will be expanded to 5MW, which is 15% of all Gibraltar’s energy needs.

 

What is your goal for the future?

I hope that Eco Wave Power’s journey will inspire and trigger some clear actions including the promotion of the implementation of clean energy, the support for innovative ideas, and a regulatory framework for renewables, which will lead to a better future for our children.

I don’t have children, I am kind of married to Eco Wave Power and my children are the power stations. I am passionate and committed to doing my absolute best for the success of the company. When I do have my own family, maybe one day we will stand together and look at the power stations and they would say “mummy contributed to changing the world”. Maybe your children will say this to you too, for supporting a better world for them.

Inna Braverman - © WIRED Magazine Inna Braverman - © WIRED Magazine

What are you most proud of today?

I think that even in this early steps of our company, we have contributed significantly towards creating awareness to this amazing sector, contributing to the development of the regulatory and legislative frameworks to accept and adopt wave energy and contributing to the scientific research of the wave energy field. Eco Wave Power made significant steps which will assist future companies in entering into this high potential market.

We are pioneering in the wave energy field, and many times being the first is not easy, but I always say that passion is the greatest renewable energy source. It is. Wave energy alone can produce twice the amount of electricity that the world produces now. So, it is definitely worth your attention!

 

What can we wish you for 2020?

I hope to see our technology in every city and country as we believe will that in the future wave energy will be an integral part of the world’s renewable energy mix