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German Company Combines Wind, Wave, & Solar Power In One System

A German company is experimenting with adding solar panels and wind turbines to the platform it uses to support its wave power generators. Is this idea a hit or a miss?

Go big or go home. That seems to be the motto of SINN Power of Germany. Founded in 2014 by Phillip Sinn, the company’s primary focus is “providing people living near coasts all over the world with access to clean electricity to enable sustainable development and contribute to our planet at the same time.” It has been researching wave power for 5 years using floating platforms with wave energy generators hanging below them.

Sinn floating solar, wind, & wave platform

Image credit: Sinn Power

But then the company hit on the idea of adding solar panels and wind turbines to those floating platforms. “The floating platform can supply renewable energy to islands across the world … and contribute to the worldwide implementation of offshore wind farms,” Sinn told Forbes recently. Bazanga! A trifecta of clean, renewable energy. The company calls it the world’s “first floating ocean hybrid platform.”

The company claims the wave generator platform can be equipped with a 20 kW solar array and up to four 6 kW wind turbines. It says it is operating fully functional prototypes at its research location in Heraklion, Greece and is “on the verge” of commercializing its technology. Sounds cool, but does it work?

PV Magazine is skeptical. Even though there is enormous potential energy waiting to be tapped in tides and waves, the industry has been stuck in the demonstration phase for decades, it says, as companies have been unable to overcome immense technical and financial hurdles. The wave and tidal energy market is littered with bankruptcies and those remaining are niche power providers for oil and gas, defense, and research. Ocean Power Technologies, the only publicly listed wave energy company, had revenue of just $600,000 in the 12 months up to the end of April 30, 2019.

“It’s feasible that wave energy equipment can be made reliable,” PV Magazine says, “just as the offshore drilling industry has demonstrated with its hardware but it’s very expensive. The sector was non-competitive 20 years ago and is even less competitive now, with the advent of cheap natural gas, offshore wind, and onshore solar.” The idea of subjecting solar panels to the corrosive effects of an ocean environment seems too far fetched to garner any serious attention, it says.

Perhaps in a highly sheltered segment of the ocean insulated from storms, heavy winds, and towering waves, the idea might work, but minimizing the wave and wind energy that can be harvested rather defeats the purpose of the whole thing. SINN Power has received a total of $6.2 million from Schweizer Kapital and the German government since 2014. Investors are not exactly beating a path to the front door, in other words, and understandably so.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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