Thought LeadershipNovember 16, 2019

Martin Edlund

Minesto aims to harness the ocean’s energy as a dependable, natural power source

The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, but water always moves. This universal truth inspired Martin Edlund, CEO at Minesto, to harness this constant and powerful energy source. His mission: a 100% renewable energy system.

While others merely worry about climate change, Martin Edlund, CEO of Minesto, which makes underwater kites used to generate electricity from ocean currents, decided to act boldly to help reduce dependency on the carbon fuels that scientists estimate account for about 60% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

“The inefficiencies in the energy system are one of the largest threats to our planet,” Edlund said. “With Minesto, we are going to change that.”

His passion for making that vision a reality has been all-consuming. “While I live in Sweden, our market opportunities and customers are situated across the globe. Our major product is [being installed] in the UK. Over the last few years I’ve spent more nights in hotel rooms than I have in my own bed,” he said. “I’m committed to making this work.”

Edlund’s vision is ambitious: he wants to harness the most significant untapped energy resource in the world – the kinetic energy from our oceans. Tides are generated by the gravitational forces between the Earth, the moon and the sun. This relative motion creates constant currents that, in theory, have the potential to generate three times the world’s energy needs.

“Our business concept is to develop and sell technology for cost-efficient electricity production from tidal and ocean currents,” Edlund said. “Our mission is clear: we want to contribute to the global energy mix and support the transition to 100% renewable energy systems.”

Minesto’s product, Deep Green, operates in areas with low-flow tidal streams and ocean currents. By sweeping a small turbine across a large area, at a speed several times that of the underwater current, the firm’s subsea kite harvests energy. (Image © Minesto)

While progress has been made with solar photovoltaics and wind power, Edlund believes that these renewable energy sources won’t be enough to replace fossil fuels and meet the world’s growing demand for energy. “If we want to reach the next level of penetration then we need new systems to contribute to energy generation,” he said. “This is where our tidal systems come in.”

Minesto’s product, Deep Green, is a kite-like devices that operates in areas with low-flow tidal streams and ocean currents. By sweeping a small turbine across a large area, at a speed several times that of the underwater current, the firm’s subsea kite harvests energy. Edlund estimates that the identified exploitable potential of the company’s product exceeds 600 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity. That is at least five times the exploitable market for competing tidal energy technologies. “It is viable in areas where no other renewable energy technology can operate cost effectively,” Edlund said. 

It is safe, too. “We’ve been successfully running trials for the last five years with no impact on marine life,” Edlund said. “The kites operate at least 20 meters [about 65 feet] below the surface – they are totally out of sight. The lack of disturbance means it’s even possible to have shipping lanes above the area where they are installed.”

The system has been developed, simulated, adapted, tested and manufactured using a business experience platform. “This technology is at the very core of what we do,” Edlund said. “It’s been a fundamental tool in the shaping of our solution.”

The first 500kW utility-scale installation of the system has been commissioned at the Holyhead Deep site off the coast of North Wales. There, Minesto plans to submerge as many as 120 kites at a cost of £160 million (US$209 million), creating more than 100 local jobs.

Minesto predicts this will generate enough energy for the equivalent of some 60,000 households. The Welsh government also has committed to engage with Minesto in advanced business planning for the project’s second stage of public funding.

“In North Wales, unemployment is higher than average and economic growth has slowed,” Edlund said.

“Our innovation, where it is naturally deployed, will create local wealth and jobs. So we’re contributing far more than the solution itself. I believe that this is going to be the new coal industry for Wales, with two significant differences: it will be clean and it will last forever.”

If the Holyhead Deep project succeeds, additional installations are in development.

“We are already making progress in the Faroe Islands, Florida and Taiwan,” Edlund said. “The jobs we create – for maintenance, servicing and installation – will always remain since the natural resource won’t go anywhere.”

Minesto’s next test will be to successfully generate the projected amounts of electricity consistently for a longer period of time.

“We hope to connect to the grid in the Faroe Islands within the next 12 months,” Edlund said. “Once we’ve achieved this, then we will have reduced the risk to investors so that we can expedite the first commercial demonstration. The race is on to meet one of the largest growing needs in the world. And we’re determined to win so that we can prove to the world that 100% renewable energy is possible.” 

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