18 May 2016
To get from development to the market is a great step. One of the driving forces within Wave energy in the UK, Max Carcas, gives his input on how to tackle the obstacles when commercialising a new energy source.
Max Carcas is a pioneer within wave energy. From 2001-2011 he worked as the Development Director in Pelamis Wave Power, a company that in that time raised 43 mio pounds of investment, had 10 mio. pounds of grant founding and generated 20 mio pounds of sales. The company built six full scale machines had up to 70 employees during that period.
“To launch a new technology is a three fold challenge: A political challenge, an engineering challenge and a commercial challenge. And the ultimate challenge is to do all three of those”.
The statement comes from electronic engineer Max Carcas, who is a pioneer within wave energy in the UK. He gave a speech at the yearly wave energy event for the Danish wave energy industry, WEIB, held in Denmark by Offshoreenergy.dk in the beginning of May.
“It is essential to have political commitment and a strategy that can allow people to make the right long term investments. Thus technology developers must take part in the political discussions and also remember to always have a commercial focus. They must look at the route to market and how people can make money out of the technology,” says Max Carcas, the former Business Development Director in Pelamis Wave Power from 2001 to 2011.
After he left the company he started his own consultancy agency, Caelulum Limited, where he makes use of his knowledge and expertise to help companies commercialise a renewable solution.
Max Carcas mentions another important aspect if you want to turn development of a new energy source into a commercial success.
“You need to convert different technical solutions to a fewer number of concepts, just as it happened in the wind energy sector,” he says and adds:
“The offshore wind industry decided on the so called Danish concept, a three bladed horizontal axis wind turbine. If you go back to the 80’ies it was not so clear that this was the right approach. At that time there were a number of different approaches in play. Darrieus turbines, one bladed, two bladed machines etc. Ultimately the industry converged on a particular technology which has become a hundred billion EUR industry world-wide,” he adds.
The necessary ‘ables’
When talking about development of technology, Max Carcas mentions a number of ‘ables’ that need to be fulfilled in order to increase the chances that your product will eventually reach the market.
“You need to make sure that you have covered all the different requirements that a converter needs to deliver commercially: The concept has to be survivable, installable, reliable, maintainable, operable and affordable. It sounds obvious but it requires that you have taken these factors into account. It is relatively easy to develop something that you can take energy from – but without addressing these other requirements it will not have a future ,” he says.
He stresses that there are a lot of pitfalls along the way and that it is necessary to make sure that the developer take a lot of details into account.
“For instance how do you maintain the machine. Does somebody get on it when it needs fixing or do you bring it back to the port, what is the system for connecting and disconnecting, have you considered the weather windows etc.,” he says.
Synergy in the North Sea
He encourages the wave energy developers to collaborate and also benefit from the offshore experiences in the North Sea.
“There is a huge amount of technology and know how already developed in the offshore wind and also offshore oil & gas industry. This knowledge and experience is undoubtedly of great value for the further development of wave energy,” he states.
When taking the step to approach the market, Max Carcas emphasizes that developers of wave energy need to consider various scenarios.
“Do they want to test a small scale system and perhaps sell it to a niche markets that are off grid or build a utility scale system. There are pros and cons of choosing different market and technological approaches,” he suggests.
Even though Max Carcas no longer directly works as a wave energy technology developer his heart still beats for the technology. And there is no doubt in his mind: Wave energy will play a role in the future energy mix in the EU - along with other renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass.
The key research priorities to ensure increased commercialization, according to Max Carcas:
- Technology: Continue to improve generators and their performance
- Manufacturing/logistics/installation: Improve facilities, materials, methods, techniques in order to drive down costs.
- Operations & Maintenance: Focus on increasing productivity and reducing downtime
- Resource: Better techniques for resource measurement and forecasting – and integration with other energy sources.
- Environmental impacts: Continued investment in monitoring to ensure that impacts are minimised.