WAVE ENERGY: Turning the Tide Towards Commercialization
Seoul-headquartered wave energy developer INGINE is set to celebrate its landmark 10th anniversary this year as its technology edges ever closer to commercialization.
Having also completed five successful years of wave energy operation in Northeast Asia, via the Jeju Bukchon Wave Power Plant, the company is now preparing for major international expansion with international projects spanning across continents.
A key project includes a joint Vietnamese and Korean initiative in Quang Ngai province—with a five-party MoU also involving Quang Ngai People’s Committee, SK Innovation, Doosan Vina and VinGroup. A separate Far East venture includes developing a 10 MW wave energy project for diesel replacement in Indonesia.
Further afield, INGINE will expand its global footprint in North America after inking a deal with the Mowachaht Muchalaht First Nation (MMFN). Initial work in 2022 will include detailed design for an onshore wave energy system in Yuquot, British Columbia (Canada). Other collaborative plans are underway in France, Morocco, Taiwan, and Japan.
Having acquired a wealth of knowledge over the last decade, INGINE’s work is not going unnoticed, being recently ranked 2nd in Forbes Korea’s marine energy innovation, ESG and carbon reduction listing. Now entering an exciting growth phase, its forthcoming cross-continental projects follow years of careful preparation, leveraging finance and establishing secure and stable international partnerships.
ENERGY INDEPENDENCE FOR ISLAND COMMUNITIES
INGINE’s overarching mission is focused on replacing conventional, polluting sources of energy, starting with the use of diesel generators in remote islands and coastal areas. With around 730 million people currently living on islands, most communities remain dependent on mainland fossil fuel imports. To this day, immense technical and economic challenges stand in the way of their energy independence. However, INGINE is one of a band of pioneering ocean energy tech developers looking to reverse the ‘island isolation’ deficit through effective harvesting of the waters which surround them. It believes the answer lies in the world’s greatest untapped energy resources—the ocean.
An estimated 3 TW of energy are stored in ever-unfurling ocean waves, promising efficient, reliable, dense and predictable power. However, the pursuit to commercialize wave energy technology has historically proved challenging, largely because offshore ocean energy systems have been too costly in the past. In order to be competitive with other renewables they require accumulative installed capacity of 1 GW. However, technology is advancing rapidly, and the climate emergency cannot wait, with island communities particularly vulnerable and all too often hamstrung by their own economic limitations.
NOVEL ON-SHORE ELECTRICITY GENERATION
This plight for island energy independence provided the initial spur for the development of INGINE’s INWaveTM WEC (Wave Energy Converter). It offers a unique take on the process with a novel ‘on-shore’ solution, meaning electricity is generated on land, away from extreme conditions and the high seas. Essentially, this eliminates the requirement for expensive, multi-million-dollar, subsea cables. Instead wave power is collected by floating devices located close to shore. This energy is then mechanically transmitted to land through ropes. Due to this innovative design INWaveTM power plants can reduce capital and operations and maintenance expenditures, greatly facilitating market entry.
More specifically, the ‘on-shore’ approach uses multi-directional energy harvesting technology within the water, targeting close-to-shore waves. The shallow waters of coastal areas act as breakwaters, weakening the strong waves coming from the open sea. For example, in waters less than 10 meters deep large waves from the open sea are converted into small and medium-sized waves.
The technology offers a flexible, modular based system, with singular modules range from 25 kW to 500 kW to adapt to local demand and site conditions. Even at this small scale the plants are economically viable with the potential to multiple modules into multi-megawatt installations, making the solution viable for small islands and coastal cities alike. The technology is especially well suited for remote coastal communities which do not have access to the central power grid and depend on diesel generators for electricity supply.
SIGNIFICANT CLIMATE IMPACT
Aligning with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7—Providing access to clean and affordable energy—INGINE’S INWaveTM solution is expected to make a significant climate impact. In figures, a 1 MW plant could save up to 33,000 tonnes of CO2 in its 20-year lifetime. Through lessons learnt in its steady, long-term development, the technology is being positioned to contribute to the production of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) best practice for wave energy projects in off-grid locations.
And with the economic value as a ‘first mover’ in the industry estimated at $6.4 billion, INGINE has assembled a global team of highly skilled engineering and business professionals to realize its full potential, with 58 patents registered and Technology Readiness Level 7 already achieved.
Multi-sector partnerships have now been finalized in more than 10 countries across five continents, and the firm’s full business proposition includes the provision of WEC technology to independent power producers, alongside project development and feasibility study services, as well as O&M parts and services for installed facilities.
The fifth year of operation of the Jeju Bukchon Wave Power Plant also means the firm has now successfully completed full-scale prototype testing at sea, setting the stage for its first commercial scale wave power plant in Vietnam. Casting ahead, INGINE is preparing to create a firmer foothold in Europe investing in an R&D center, while creating further synergies across the blue economy integrating WECs with offshore platforms.
ECONOMIC FEASIBILITY & SOCIAL VALUE
Recognized for its economic feasibility and social value, INGINE has received significant national and international finance support, including $2 million from SK Innovation in 2019. This was supported by a further $3 million from South Korea’s state lender Korea Development Bank (KDB) in 2021, which enabled INGINE to successfully close its $6 million Series B round. In 2021, other forms of technical and financial assistance were granted to support INGINE’s projects through the Korea Environmental & Industry Technology Institute (KEITI), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Clean Energy for European Union Islands Secretariat.
Early in 2022, additional private financing of $1.7 million was secured thanks to INGINE’s R&D capabilities which have generated 58 patents globally. INGINE is planning to go public in 2023 and has selected Hana Financial Investment to be the lead manager for the Initial Public Offering (IPO). Before the IPO, INGINE will work on its Series C round throughout 2022, as a pre-IPO phase to promote R&D and commercial developments.
This feature originally appeared in Ocean News & Technology's Magazine April 2022 edition—Green Energy. To read more, access the magazine here.