Delegation of the European Union to Canada

Artificial intelligence from Canada could help a Belgium-based SME bring its blue wave energy technology to market

05/12/2019 - 00:00
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A major challenge blocking the commercialization of blue wave energy is how to keep energy capturing devices afloat during extreme storm conditions. The problem is compounded by the need to manage energy supply in order to maintain grid stability, according to Steven Nauwelaerts, CEO of Laminaria, a wave energy technology developer engaged in R&D in Basque Country, Spain, and the North Sea.

“Surviving in the ocean is not an easy feat,” says Nauwelaerts. “Energy content in storms can be up to 200 times higher than in the conditions you need for nominal production.”


To stem the tide, Laminaria has developed a dynamic wave energy converter system, which raises and lowers steel buoys – connected to cables under the sea – according to wave height.



“The device searches the ideal position in the water column […] to produce […] power,” says Nauwelaerts. “You’re not in the water to produce five peaks a year and the rest of the year produce nothing. You want to be performing optimally in small waves and still survive.”


New Ai possibilities

Laminaria’s engineers have – until now – taught its devices how to operate in different sea conditions.


Nauwelaerts’s new belief is the roles could be reversed – with machines generating new ideas and trying different combinations we are not able to think of to control the devices and help us improve power output.


“The ambition is to introduce Ai in our control strategy,” says Nauwelaerts. “[It’s] very exciting to see what comes out of the Ai study.”


The breakthrough inspiration arose from Nauwelaerts’s discussions with representatives of Seed Ai, an Ai consultancy, and of MILA, a world-leading Ai institute, both based in Montreal.


Nauwelaerts is part of a new wave of clean tech entrepreneurs across continental Europe who are looking to take advantage of a clean tech market set to reach $26 trillion by 2030 and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which has lowered transatlantic barriers to trade.


His was one of the hundreds of new connections that were made at the two-day EU-Canada Workshop for 60 Canadian and European clean tech companies, held in Montreal on November 6-7, 2019.


Organized by the European Union, the government of Canada, and Écotech Québec, the Workshop included plenary sessions, B2B meetings, and field visits. It followed a preliminary conference in Brussels, “CETA: Taking Action for Trade and Climate,” in January 2019.

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