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A New Wave-Powered Device Could Produce Drinking Water from the Ocean

This week, a Norwegian firm presented a system that will use marine energy to desalinate water, giving a boost to plans to use this type of energy to produce clean water. The system will be tested in waters off Gran Canaria.

November 24, 2022
6 minutes
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This week, a Norwegian firm presented a system that will use marine energy to desalinate water, giving a boost to plans to use this type of energy to produce clean water. The system will be tested in waters off Gran Canaria.

In a statement Monday, Ocean Oasis announced that its wave-powered prototype device, Gaia, is now operational. The offshore floating desalination plant is designed to provide clean water for coastal communities.

The plant — which is 10 meters tall, 7 meters in diameter, and approximately 100 tons — was assembled in Las Palmas and will be tested at the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands.

Ocean Oasis claims that its technology can produce fresh water from ocean water by using the energy of waves to desalinate it and pump it to coastal users.

The main investor in Ocean Oasis is Grieg Maritime Group. Grieg Maritime Group is headquartered in Bergen, Norway.

The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. The Canary Islands Institute of Technology reports that the islands have been a pioneer in the production of desalinated water at affordable cost.

The ITC has highlighted some of the reasons why the Canary Islands have a water deficit. Low rainfall, high soil permeability and aquifer overexploitation have all contributed to the water deficit.

Desalination is a process used to remove dissolved minerals from water, and is seen as a useful tool for providing drinking water to countries where water supply is an issue. However, the United Nations has noted that there are significant environmental challenges linked to desalination.

Desalination, which is energy-intensive, contributes to global warming because it uses fossil fuels. The toxic brine produced by desalination also pollutes coastal ecosystems.

The idea of using waves to power desalination is not unique. In April, for example, the U.S. Department of Energy revealed the winners of the last stage of a competition focused on wave-powered desalination.

After testing at the PLOCAN facility, Ocean Oasis said it would be looking to construct a second installation on the Canary Islands. "In this phase, the prototype will be scaled with the capacity to produce water for consumption," the company said.

The potential for marine energy is exciting, but the footprint of wave and tidal stream projects is very small compared to other renewables.

According to data from Ocean Energy Europe, the installed capacity of tidal stream energy in Europe increased to 2.2 megawatts in 2021, up from 260 kilowatts in 2020. This represents a significant increase in the adoption of this renewable energy technology.

According to OEE, the installed capacity of wave energy increased threefold in 2021, reaching 681 kW. Globally, 1.38 MW of wave energy came online during the year, while 3.12 MW of tidal stream capacity was installed.

In 2021, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity, according to figures from industry body WindEurope. This is compared to the installed capacity in other parts of the world.

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