Checking in with: Brimes Energy’s Ram Maramara

Ramuel Maramara's design for a device that harvests energy from ocean waves has an unexpected side benefit: Fresh water.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

The artificial jellyfish is heading to the Philippines. And perhaps the Caribbean. And someday soon, maybe everywhere else.

Brimes Energy, a member of Stony Brook University’s Clean Energy Business Incubator Program operating out of a 1,600-square-foot industrial test site in Holbrook, is close to a field-test agreement with a major Philippines-based utility. CEO Ramuel Maramara, who’s twice traveled to his native land to hammer out details of the ocean-based trial, said the utility is “performing its due diligence” and “final negotiations” are underway, and he expects to finalize the parameters within a month.

A best-case scenario, Maramara told Innovate LI this week, puts his proprietary artificial jellyfish – a modern spin on the circa-1970s Salter’s Duck, the longstanding top model for converting wave power to electricity – in the water off the Philippines coast within six months.

The plan, Maramara noted, is to anchor a single jellyfish device in the water next to existing alternative-energy operations maintained by the utility, which operates a 50-turbine wind farm in the ocean and an adjacent land-based solar farm.

“They want to add a wave farm,” Maramara noted. “They’re looking for the triple play of renewable energy, all at one site.”

Before it buys the farm, though, the utility wants to test the jellyfish, starting with a relatively small 2-kilowatt unit. As the unit “passes certain thresholds,” Brimes Energy – which according to the CEO can produce jellyfish units capable of generating 10,000 kilowatts apiece – will step things up, assessing 50-kilowatt and then 1,00-kilowatt units at the utility’s off-coast test site.

The jellyfish devices that will eventually be tested in ocean waters are actually upgraded prototypes the Brimes Energy team has developed over the last several months. Among the upgrades: a “rigid mooring” system that, according to Maramara, replaces a traditional anchor/cable system – the cables tend to snap, the CEO noted – with a “neutrally buoyant rod” that absorbs tension and compression forces and secures the jellyfish directly to the seabed.

Also new and improved is the jellyfish’s basic frame. While the electricity-generating gyroscopes and other critical tech is still housed in the portion of the unit floating on the water’s surface, more of the unit is now submerged, increasing efficiency while shrinking the jellyfish’s surface footprint.

“The basic design is still the same,” Maramara noted. “It’s a slight improvement of the body itself.”

Meanwhile, Brimes Energy’s other potentially enormous vertical – a seawater desalination process using the same jellyfish technology – is also advancing.

Maramara’s team has “tweaked” the technology to maximize its desalination capabilities, according to the CEO, and is in very early talks with a Caribbean utility company about anchoring a desalination device next to another oceanic wind farm.

The tweaking has been minimal – “We’re happy where we are with the desalination,” Maramara noted, “it works” – and if all goes well, ocean-based desalination assessments could begin soon.

“It’s a little further away, but not too far,” Maramara said. “Maybe toward the end of this year.”

While the jellyfish has performed well in Brimes Energy’s 4,500-gallon, 40x4x4-foot, 50-kilowatt-servomotor-powered wave tank, the real tests of its power-generation and desalination capabilities require actual ocean conditions. And to get the devices into the ocean, Maramara noted, the company requires cash.

The international industrialist – who immigrated to the United States in 2005 and owns several business enterprises, including Holbrook machine-maker Brimes Industrial and Philippines-based industrial machinist East Asia Mechatronics – has already had success raising funds for Brimes Energy, including a $50,000 angel investment to launch the company in 2014 and a subsequent $175,000 in R&D-supporting venture capital.

He’s now looking to raise another $500,000, money Maramara says will help Brime Energy hit its next power-generation and desalination milestones, including construction of an actual 2-kilowatt production unit to test in the Philippines.

There are current negotiations with “a couple of interested parties,” including Long Island-based investors, with one deal for between $50,000 and $100,000 in venture capital likely to close within a few weeks, he said.

Maramara will appeal directly to investors when Brimes Energy showcases the jellyfish technology at Advanced Energy 2016, a large-scale technology conference sponsored by SBU’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center. The conference is scheduled for April 20-22 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.

The CEO is also looking to assemble an advisory board to help him bring Brimes Energy to commercial fruition. While he hasn’t brought on any advisors yet, the international entrepreneur knows exactly whom he’s looking for, placing a premium on advisors with utility-based experience.

“We want people with business experience,” Maramara noted. “But people who understand the utility industries will be especially important as we figure out how to move forward.”