Norsk Hydro Technology Ventures invests in wave energy

March 19, 2002, 09:00 CET

Norsk Hydro Technology Ventures will invest venture capital into a new wave power generation concept developed by Scottish start-up company Ocean Power Delivery.

"Norsk Hydro Technology Ventures (NTV) – Hydro's venture capital vehicle within energy - screened several wave energy devices around the world before finding Pelamis, a computer controlled "snake", being developed by Ocean Power Delivery, a small start up company in Scotland", says Richard Erskine, Investment Director in NTV.

Previous attempts to economically harvest energy from waves - which the World Energy Council reckons can eventually supply 15 percent of current world energy demand - have been crippled by cumbersome designs. Devices have been designed with enough steel to withstand storms, but will only extract energy from normal-size waves most of the time.

Norsk Hydro Technology Ventures has acted as lead investor for a group that includes SAM Private Equity in Zurich and 3i, one of Europe's leading venture capital groups. Together they are committing £6 million (EUR 9.8 million) in equal shares to Ocean Power Delivery with the aim of getting a working prototype in the water, producing electricity to the grid within two years.

The EU commitment to sourcing 12.5 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2010 has become a significant force for developing new technologies. Wind power has been at the forefront - with installed European capacity forecast to grow from 18,000 MW in 2000 to 58,000 MW by 2005. There are clear signs offshore wave energy will emulate these growth rates if devices can withstand harsh ocean conditions. Successful development of Pelamis and competitors can pave the way for a large global marked for wave energy converters.

Pelamis is a semi-submerged structure composed of cylindrical sections linked by hinged joints containing hydraulic rams. Each device will be about 150 metres long, 3.5meters in diameter, and generate about 750 kilowatts of electricity. Several devices can be connected together and linked to shore through a single seabed cable, with a 30 MW wave farm occupying a 1km2 of sea. Pelamis's hydrodynamic design, its ability to change characteristics, and the incorporation of the latest offshore oil industry technology will enable it to survive storms and keep construction costs down.

"NTV's role is both to seek exciting investments with venture capital financial returns, and also to act as eyes and ears for Hydro's Oil and Energy business area, in a rapidly evolving new energy economy. We are particularly pleased to have the opportunity to invest with 3i and SAM on this deal", says Jørgen C. Arentz Rostrup, NTV's Managing Director. "We have completed five investments to date and are currently evaluating several deals within the distributed power and renewables areas", he adds.

To complement the average annual production of 9 TWh of hydro-electric power, Hydro increasingly also prioritises other renewable energy. Expansion of the Tyin power plant in western Norway will provide 200 GWh and the Havøygavlen wind power park in northern Norway will produce 120 GWh. Hydro's Energy sector actively reviews additional wind power initiatives. Hydro is also prioritising initiatives within Hydrogen, preparing the way for a entirely emission-free energy carrier.

Ocean Power Delivery