BlueTech / Decarbonisation and greening government / Urban and Local NeedsUC Berkeley spin-out CalWave’s technology captures the vast and steady power of the ocean at scale
- Founded in 2014
- Funding total: $19 million, including a $7.5M grant from the DOE in early 2022
- Revenue growth from 2020 to 2021: 0%; pre-revenue.
- Investors include Sustainable Ocean Alliance, Breakout Labs, CITRIS Foundry
- HQ: Berkeley, California, USA
- FTEs: 1-10
- Key clients/partners: US Department of Energy, UC Berkeley, Scripps Oceanography, Michelin
- Key executives: Dr. Marcus Lehmann, CEO and co-founder, Mechanical Engineering PhD from Hamburg University of Technology; Dr. Thomas Boerner, CTO and co-founder, Mechanical Engineering PhD from University of California, Berkeley; Daniel Petcovic, COO, 7 years as an engineer at Lockheed Martin.
For a successful transition to net zero, all sources of renewable energy must be harnessed. Despite recent estimates that wave power could provide up to 30% of the US energy demand, the expansive power of ocean waves remains largely untapped. Wave energy converters (WECs) capture the steady power of waves to produce clean electricity. However, the vast power of the ocean comes with a downside: frequent, extreme weather conditions and storms create waves with enormous impact on any structure they encounter. To survive these aggressive conditions at sea, WECs are typically composed of heavy and expensive steel, making them challenging to operate and maintain, and ultimately limiting the capacity of WECs to significantly contribute to global energy supply.
CalWave, a spin-out from UC Berkeley, has overcome this fundamental structural challenge by designing WECs that function submerged several metres beneath the ocean surface. Submersion avoids the harshest conditions at the surface while still capturing the power of the waves via pressure exerted on the devices during wave motion. Sheltered from the worst impact, CalWave’s proprietary WEC technology (called xWave™) is composed of lightweight and durable materials, and can autonomously reposition its mechanical components relative to wave size or temporarily shut down during the strongest surges. This combination of features makes xWave™ devices an efficient, cost-effective, and scalable way to capture ocean wave power.
The Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included commitments to invest in “water power projects” and a growing number of coastal states, such as California, have committed to transitioning to 100% clean energy. Having already secured $11 million in development contracts with the US Department for Energy, the outlook is positive for CalWave’s aims to deploy it’s xWave™ technology at utility scale.
plans for 2022
- First long-duration, at-sea technology demo is expected to complete in February.
- Prepare to install the first commercial-scale, utility grid-connected wave energy test site rated for 20 MW in the USA.
who should connect with this company
Public or investor-owned electricity providers looking to add predictable and consistent renewable energy capacity to their supply portfolio, particularly in municipalities with unsheltered coastline (such as in the Americas, Australia, Portugal, parts of Scandinavia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom and Ireland) or small island nations (such as those in the Pacific or Indian Ocean, or Caribbean Sea).
company in action
In September 2021, CalWave deployed its xWave™ pilot unit, x1™, in San Diego, California.[ref] The x1™ device was installed 300m from the Scripps Institution of Oceangraphy’s research pier and 26m below the ocean surface.[ref] Power produced was supplied to the coast via a temporary cable (which conveniently comprises the same power export infrastructure that is used for wind farms). The six month pilot was designed to test the performance and reliability of the x1™ system in the open ocean. Through additional collaborations, CalWave integrated monitoring tools that supplied scientists with data about how the machines impacted the marine ecosystem through noise, collisions, or ecosystem changes. The pilot was funded by the US Department for Energy and was California's first long-duration demonstration of a submerged WEC at sea. Results of the pilot are expected March 2022.