Energy securityWave-Powered SeaRAY Set for Hawaii trial

Published 24 August 2021

Offshore industries, like marine research, fish farming, and mineral mining, often rely on big ships with large crews. Without clean energy to power these vessels, each trip out to sea and back to shore is not only expensive but also carbon intensive. You cannot charge that ship by plugging it into the ocean. Or maybe you can.

Offshore industries, like marine research, fish farming, and mineral mining, often rely on big ships with large crews. Without clean energy to power these vessels, each trip out to sea and back to shore is not only expensive but also carbon intensive. You cannot charge that ship by plugging it into the ocean.

Or maybe you can.

An autonomous, wave-powered, renewable energy device—called the SeaRAY autonomous offshore power system (AOPS)—could power offshore work and help protect our oceans and climate, too. The SeaRAY AOPS not only makes and stores clean, carbon-free energy, but it also shares data with the offshore vehicles it powers. Designed by C-Power, the SeaRAY AOPS could provide clean energy for offshore activities, including aquaculture (like offshore fish farms), mining, oceanographic research, military missions, methane leak monitoring at underwater oil and gas wells, or even desalination for remote communities and natural disaster recovery.

“Anything you can think of,” said Andrew Simms, a research technician at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory(NREL), “SeaRAY can power offshore.”

The global ocean economy is expected to double from $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion by 2030. Powering this economy with renewable energy is critical to protect these vast and vulnerable waters, which house about a million species, 17% of the world’s food supply, and 70% of its oxygen.

To prove the SeaRAY AOPS can help power this so-called blue economy, C-Power partnered with NREL and the U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office to prep the device for its first open ocean trial.

NREL has a critical role in this project,” said Reenst Lesemann, C-Power’s chief executive officer. “They’re not only helping provide the brains of the AOPS but also helping with testing and debugging the system before we get into the water.”

To make sure the SeaRAY AOPS is ready for a six-month oceanic trial at the U.S. Navy Wave Energy Test Site in Hawaii, NREL researchers are simulating rolling ocean movements at the laboratory’s Flatirons Campus in Colorado. With NREL’s novel field data collection and control system, called Modular Ocean Data Acquisition (MODAQ), the team will check that SeaRAY AOPS can operate as intended while rocking with ocean waves.

“We’re treating this like a satellite,” Simms said. “Before we deploy, everything must be right to achieve successful power generation in Hawaii and elsewhere. We need to walk before we run.”

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