One of the charming things I discovered about Finland’s green tech sector on my blogger tour this summer is how close-knit a group the whole green energy sector can be in a nation of just 7 million souls. Where everybody knows everybody, there is an unusual degree of collaboration between large and small companies and a resulting workshop of ideas, that you just would not see in a larger country.
For example: now giant energy company Metso with its 27 million employees worldwide, is working on extremely innovative underwater wave energy tech with wild and crazy start-up AW-Energy: the inventor of the groundbreaking Waveroller.
Next summer, Portugal (getting 45% renewable power by the end of this year) is hosting the Waveroller’s full scale 300 kilowatt demonstration off the coast of Peniche. The renewable energy harnessed from the Atlantic Ocean will be transferred through a sea cable to the national grid and measured by Portugal. I first wrote about the company last year.
As new CEO John Liljelund told me in Finland, Portugal’s permitting is refreshingly practical and not burdened with a lot of second guessing: “They say does it make any harm? If no, then, OK. Prove it. They say, ‘Let’s do it: then we’ll see.’ This a problem; this is not.’”
Metso is supplying AW-Energy with the information system to analyze the prevailing wave conditions, and to respond to those changing conditions, with around-the-clock automated control of the operation of the unmanned power plant. Both systems are the first of their kind in the world. It is unusual to see big companies be so helpful to little companies, and so invested in completely new concepts.
The Waveroller is anchored on the sea bottom at a depth of 10-20 meters and unlike the majority of the ideas being pursued in wave energy, which use surface waves, it takes advantage of the back-and-forth movement of the surge pushing back and forth on the sea floor.
The invention was inspired by a complete accident, when the Finnish diver Rauno Koivusaari almost got hit on the head by a powerfully flapping door on a shipwreck 15 years ago, and had a Eureka moment, and began working on the idea.
Wave energy development is slow, because while it is on the frontier of renewable energy, it takes giant investments using very heavy industry to test and move ahead at each step. One flap of the Waveroller weighs 20 tons.
But when a giant company teams up with a start-up to help push the frontiers of renewable energy invented in a small nation, that is heartening.