Despite the lockdown, the Startup in Residence participants are still very busy working on their prototypes and solutions. But what have they been up to exactly and how have they been dealing with the COVID-19 crisis? Time for an update! This time: Ocean Grazer.
University of Groningen spin-off startup Ocean Grazer is working hard to deliver on society’s increasing demand for renewable energy. They’re trying to tackle one of the biggest obstacles: storage. Because green energy depends on weather conditions, the key is to be able to temporarily store the generated energy when it’s not windy or sunny. Ocean Grazer developed Ocean Battery, a promising energy storage system to store renewable energy generated from the wind at sea, by using hydrostatic pressure. Through the Startup in Residence Program, Ocean Grazer is working on a prototype test in the Eemshaven. Co-founder and CTO Marijn van Rooij talks about their progress so far:
Why did you sign up for Startup in Residence?
“Someone told us this program might be a good fit for us and we were immediately enthusiastic when we checked it out and decided to sign up. That was only a couple of hours before the deadline though. <laughs> So we immediately got to work and finished registration with literally seconds left on the clock. The only problem was that the server closed a minute earlier, but after a few phone calls, we were able to register and fortunate enough to be selected!”
Any challenges along the way?
“Overall, it was a really positive experience for us. I loved the energy and enthusiasm of everyone involved and it was really cool to meet the other startups and do workshops together. It was always our ambition to work with Groningen Seaports, but joining the program made things go a lot faster. Early on, we were still searching a little and trying to find ways to get the most out of the program and collaboration with Seaports, but things were pretty streamlined.”
Has COVID-19 changed the way you do things?
“In some ways. I was amazed by how fast people could switch to working remotely, so there aren’t any delays or anything. Of course we had to do a couple of workshops virtually, but we were able to do the last one physically, so it was fun seeing everyone again. Really the only problem for us is we wanted to organize a live event to kick off the pilot in September in the Eemshaven, where we will test our Ocean Battery.”
So what will happen now?
“It’s going to be a virtual event now and we have a couple of cool things in store, leading up to the event. Currently, we’re developing a plan to show the opportunities of the Ocean Battery via an online platform in an unique way. Of course we’d rather have a real life event at Seaports, but it’s going to be a lot of fun nonetheless.”
Can you explain a little bit about the test and the technology?
“Simply put, our battery is very similar to a hydroelectric powerstation, such as a dam, in how it works. The only difference is that, rather than a single, giant structure, it’s multiple batteries spread out across the ocean floor. To store energy, the system pumps fresh water enhanced with biological additives into flexible bladders, that are deflated by the pressure of the ocean. And releasing that built up pressure, you’re able to generate energy. Unlike say a battery, it can have infinite cycles and it’s very efficient, durable and easily scalable. And most importantly, it’s very sustainable and environmentally friendly. There are also other storage systems currently being developed that use dangerous chemicals.”
“We’ll be testing a smaller scale prototype of our battery and measure things like internal and external forces and pressure, and energy loss. The cool thing is that all of these individual techniques and technology we use, already work and are already used in offshore engineering. So our battery is sort of the sum of different things that have already been proven to work. Our challenge and this test is to make sure all these things combined work together as a battery.”
What will happen after a successful test?
“This test battery is installed near the harbor, so that’s relatively shallow in terms of depth. The next step is a bigger system, further out to sea and in deeper waters. We’re currently in talks with a big, international energy supplier and, hopefully if everything goes as planned, we’ll be able to use our batteries on a much, much bigger scale.”
“It’s really great to be able to make a difference with the work you do. Ocean Battery is just one thing we’re developing. We’re also working on things like converting wave energy into electricity and a multifunctional base structure for wind turbines. And to develop all of that, we still closely together with the university and have several professors on our Scientific Advisory Board. We also work closely with students and offer research internships.”