The ocean is a vast, untapped source of energy. For Daniel Hoyles, the ocean is also a great source of inspiration. Growing up in coastal Newfoundland, he watched the raw power of ocean waves first-hand. Now the ambitious Memorial University bachelor of commerce alumnus and chief operating officer of Grey Island Energy is developing a technology to harness the ocean’s immense wave energy to power everything from a house along the coast to a massive offshore oil rig.
Daniel describes wave power as another form of solar energy. As air heats up in the blazing sun, it becomes less dense, lighter and rises higher, only to be swiftly replaced by colder, denser air. This rapid rush of new air is how wind is formed and wind drives the ocean’s powerful waves. In the case of wave power, water is the medium through which kinetic energy, the dynamic energy of motion, passes.
Daniel champions wave power technology because it trumps the modest power levels generated by wind turbines. Wave power energy is denser. The tremendous energy stored in a wave requires less space and delivers greater impact. It’s also reliable. Waves are much more predictable than wind patterns and can provide continuous power.
Also, considering oceans cover nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s surface, the potential for wave power is enormous. Studies show the potential for generation is best between 30 and 60 degrees latitude across both hemispheres, with particular success on western coastlines.
To tap this vast resource, Daniel and Grey Island Energy are developing the Sea Wave Energy Extraction Device (SeaWEED), a new kind of wave energy converter designed to survive harsh ocean environments. Their patent-pending design offers profitable competitive advantages over other wave energy converters. For one, its flat-packed form makes it simple to manufacture and install on site, reducing project construction costs. It can also be moored to the sea floor using easily-sourced industry standard equipment and the progressive design allows for routine maintenance at sea rather than on land, preventing unnecessary interruption of energy output.
What Daniel is most proud of, however, is the SeaWEED’s enhanced energy-capture technology. It can be customized for specific wave conditions and its Storm Mode System submerges the device deeper into the ocean to safely ride out hostile ocean storms and to avoid interrupting energy production. In other words, it’s the Swiss Army knife of wave energy converters.
Like other wave energy converters, SeaWEED works with hydraulics. When a wave hits the device, it undulates with the movement of the wave, lifting and engaging the hydraulic system to begin energy conversion. A wave’s impact releases kinetic energy onto the device. Most other devices only absorb energy from the initial impact of the wave, while the majority of energy carried in the swell is deflected and lost. The distinct design of Grey Island’s device allows it to continue to absorb that otherwise lost energy.
These are the kind of original ideas that excite the Genesis Centre at Memorial: pioneering, technology-based concepts with high-growth potential. Tim Gardiner, Grey Island’s chief visionary officer, sought help from the centre to commercialize his idea for a new kind of wave energy converter. The Genesis Centre used its vast network and specialized resources to connect Tim with Daniel in 2010, who then formed Grey Island Energy. Soon after, the centre played matchmaker yet again, helping Grey Island bring both its current chief technology officer Brian Lundrigan and chief executive officer and president Chris Griffiths into the fold.
As Memorial University’s business incubator, the Genesis Centre supported Grey Island Energy with office space and facilities to develop and create the SeaWEED prototype and with guidance to commercialize it.
The Genesis Centre is one of the most successful business incubators in Canada. It connects entrepreneurs to the scientific, technical and business expertise at Memorial University and helps clients gain access to the marketing, finance and management expertise of world-class mentors and advisory board members. It has helped its clients raise more than $23.9 million in private equity, with 60 per cent of that amount coming from outside Newfoundland and Labrador. More than 35 companies have graduated from the incubator, including Rutter Technologies, Verafin and ClearRisk.
The support and mentorship of the Genesis Centre continues to empower Daniel and his teammates to advance their idea. To date they’ve successfully developed and tested a one-sixteenth scale model and will move forward with testing of a one-fourth scale model. Every new trial and evaluation puts the company one step closer to the ultimate goal — relieving the stress put upon industry and community by heavy energy demands.
For Daniel, the success of Grey Island Energy isn’t just a personal goal, it’s a global one. And he’s confident that when the alternative energy industry swell begins to crest, they’ll be ready to ride the wave.