Can we change the world around us, including the energy sector, by taking a look inside of us – literally?
Anders Jansson, Commercial Director at company CorPower, tells us how a heart surgeon came up with an idea that can revolutionize the power industry.
How did CorPower start?
It was started by the investor Stig Lundbäck, who is a medical doctor who did heart surgery, and he always had a great interest in wave power on the side. He saw that there is a pre-tension pump system in the heart that draws back the blood to the heart automatically, and while he was thinking about that he realised that it should probably be one of the key innovations to make a power plant survive in a harsh ocean environment.
So, he utilised the fantastic attributes of our hearts to come up with a technical innovation for wave power.
What is it that CorPower are doing that is so unique?
We have been able, with this technology, to solve the two main challenges within wave energy, and that is the ability to build a small electricity power plant that is at the same time able to survive big storms.
During the last 30 years of innovation within wave power, companies have either built systems that were too small and fragile to survive, or they have built very large systems which were not commercially viable. With this sort of pneumatic pre-tension system and a tech innovation called wave spring, we can control every type of wave conditions. So we can produce power from quite small waves, and still survive really large, severe waves.
What that actually means is that we, compared to other technologies, can actually accelerate the wave movement ten times faster than other waves. So if you compare it to some swings that a child is sitting on – if you push from one direction, then you push when the swing is on its way back – you need to first stop it, and then accelerate it which means you don’t get a lot of power.
But if you push when the kid is at the top of the swing, then you can increase that velocity quite a lot, and if you then add another person on the other side of the swings and both persons push the swings at exactly the right moment, you suddenly can get a very fast velocity on the swing. So that is really what we’re doing here, we have a system that can accelerate the movement in a very smart manner, and at the same time, we can turn that off very fast – meaning that if there is a very large wave, then we survive.
What is that is ground-breaking about CorPower’s technology?
It really is this ability to build a small power plant in terms of the amount of material we use, but still a plan which is able to survive severe storms and very high power waves. There is no one else in the world that can do that in an effective way – so we can produce significantly more electricity with much less material, meaning we can produce wave power at a low cost.
How does CorPower hope to change the world?
We really have the chance to make wave power commercially viable at large scale. If you put that into numbers, that means that wave power can actually generate 10-20 percent of global electricity consumption, so that is a substantial amount of electricity that, today, is not utilised at all.
If you’re looking at 10 or 30 years into the future, we see an increased usage of electricity by electrical cars, for instance. Everything is starting to move towards electricity, so in order to be able to continue this development, we need to add a significant amount of electricity generation into the system. And if we don’t do that with renewable sources, then there really is no point in doing it at all.
We think that we will be a significant part of the new energy mix that is going to be needed to make voltage to help the world survive.
Stockholm has been called one of the “greenest” cities in the world, and Sweden certainly works a lot with issues of sustainability. Do you think Swedish companies are specially situated to handle sustainability and energy?
I do think that the advantage of being in one of the cleanest capitals in the world means that people are constantly aware of what is not clean. If it’s not clean, people very quickly see that because they are so used to a very clean and healthy environment – clean air, clean water etc. I think it’s in our blood, and that’s one part of why people who live in Stockholm and Sweden, without thinking about it, are very self-aware of how we think about sustainability and how we use energy.
And the other part is that there is a lot of competence in the Stockholm region that is close by – both in Sweden but also in the neighbouring countries – so it’s quite easy to attract talented people to Stockholm. Today at CorPower our employees come from nine different countries, so that says something about CorPower but also that people are very willing to move to Stockholm because it’s a nice city, and Sweden is a nice country.
Anything to add?
I think it’s quite interesting that one of the most prominent companies in wave power is situated in Stockholm where there is very little wave energy – even though we don’t have the resource next door; we still have the brains to develop a technology that we hope can change the world.