Interview with Francisco Carrión, Director General of MARERSA, taken from Mexico Energy Review 2018
Mexico’s Energy Reform brought a wave of opportunities for clean energies, with wind and solar being the champions of the transition. Ranking 13th globally in terms of shoreline length, Mexico has great potential to develop ocean wave power, says Francisco Carrión, CEO of MARERSA, which is focusing on the new segment.
In its 2016 Marine Energy Resources report, the World Energy Council (WEC) states that, up until the creation of the report, there was 0.5GW of commercial marine power generation capacity in operation, with 1.7GW under construction. Meanwhile, in a study conducted on behalf of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists estimated that the total global theoretical wave energy potential was in the range of 2-32PWh per year. These numbers vary mainly due to different technical and economical assumptions. According to the World Energy Council report, the North American region, especially along the Pacific coast, is ranked highly in its energy generation potential through wave power production technologies.
The Ministry of Energy’s 2016-2030 Renewable Energies Prospective describes ocean wave power simply as a potential clean energy. Cost has been a top factor for neglecting the source’s promise, a perception that MARERSA believes it can change. “Few countries in the world have companies that are strongly committed to wave-power technologies. This is due mainly to costs, which can make ocean wave power too expensive to develop,” says Carrión. In its Marine Energy Resources report the WEC highlights how wave energy production has the highest cost of electricity, reaching up to US$500/MWh on average. The report also highlights how such a high cost illustrates the immaturity of the technology and its relative youth, while placing hopes on the creation of economically viable technologies through R&D efforts. “MARERSA has found a way to solve this, and with our project in Lazaro Cardenas, we are going to become the first company in the world to produce an economically viable project with this technology, on a large scale.”
Generation intermittency, together with oil waste, is a problem that, although diminished with the use of renewable energies, still exists, says Carrión. “Renewable technologies, although environmentally friendly, still have some related sins. For the big champions, wind and solar, the environmental problem rests with the oil used inside the turbines and the batteries manufactured with polluting materials. Neither technology can provide a continuous, stable supply of electricity.”
Ocean wave power used to commit the same sins as these two other technologies, he continues. “Most wave power systems use hydraulic oils, just as wind turbines do, which due to temperature and pressure must be replaced almost every two years. A wave power project in Rosarito that we were working on together with CFE required an estimated 2 million liters of oil to be changed every three years, incurring both environmental and economic costs. Wave power technologies that use these kinds of oils also have the disadvantage of not being able to produce power during harsh environmental conditions when the floating devices must be retracted, stopping the flow of energy, which makes the technology intermittent just like wind and solar.”
To solve the problem of intermittency and pollution, MARERSA has come up with an innovative mechanism, which will be deployed at its Lazaro Cardenas 150MW project. It uses water, air and a set of buoys to transform kinetic energy from the ocean into potential energy ready to be transformed into electricity, even in harsh ocean conditions. Achieving the needed level of technological maturity did not come easily. “Our Lazaro Cardenas project did not develop overnight, we have been working on wave technologies since 2007. During this whole time, we improved our patents until we achieved a technology that can provide non-interruptible, 100 percent environmentally friendly energy supply. Even when the system undergoes maintenance, its modular design means it only stops production at 500kW intervals, while the overall system keeps running.”
To get to know more about MARERSA’s innovative way of approaching financing and future plans for Mexico and South America, take a look at Mexico Energy Review 2018, page 78.
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