By GREGORY ZELLER //
They love Brimes Energy in the Philippines.
With the sovereign nation’s Energy Regulatory Commission promising R&D “incentives,” the circa-2014 Hauppauge-based startup is about to commence the biggest test yet of its “artificial jellyfish” wave-energy device – and First Gen, one of the Philippines’ largest independent utilities, is covering half of the $1 million cost.
That’s according to founder, CEO and native Filipino Ramuel Maramara, who met recently with members of the Philippine ERC to clear the way for a 2017 test that will put two 20-kilowatt jellyfish in the waters off Luzon, the Philippines’ largest and most densely populated island. Maramara couldn’t reveal the test site’s exact location, noting only it was “in the area” where the Pacific Ocean, the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea converge.
The plan: Build the largest jellyfish prototype so far and get it into the water by late 2017, then observe it for six months and add a second 20 kilowatt unit, “tweaked” based on lessons learned from the first, Maramara said.
The power generated by the prototypes will be fed directly to a seaside residential community – again, Maramara couldn’t say which – with another six months of testing planned for the second unit.
If Brimes Energy’s laboratory calculations are correct and certain efficiency thresholds are bested by the second version, “we will proceed with a 1 megawatt unit,” Maramara added.
So far, the numbers are promising. Designed to overcome the inherent generation-transmission inefficiencies of the gyroscopic Salter’s Duck – still considered the best of a poor selection of wave-energy power generators – the jellyfish boasts a wave-to-electricity ratio of roughly 19 percent and a wave-energy absorption rate approaching 50 percent.
That’s obviously well short of anything that might be considered commercially viable. But it’s better than anything out there now, according to Maramara, who acknowledges that his startup is in a tight race with other global interests pursuing similar wave-energy breakthroughs.
“We’re catching up,” he said. “The problem of efficient ocean-wave harvesting is not yet solved. There are still big efficiency issues, but we believe we have the right technology.
“At least, our data is showing that we do,” Maramara added. “Our efficiency numbers are among the highest.”
There are other important numbers to be considered by 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. At the top of his list: the estimated $1 million price tag for the ambitious ocean testing.
With First Gen committing $500,000 to the cause, Brimes Energy – which has already attracted about $225,000 in angel investments and venture capital – will continue to seek new outside investments. Maramara is scheduled to meet with the Long Island Angel Network in December.
He’s also turning the heads of some of those global competitors. In addition to frequent trips to his native country to organize the ocean testing, Maramara has presented jellyfish data at numerous international conventions, including September’s CORE 2016, Scotland’s second international conference on offshore renewable energy, and October’s AWTEC 2016, the Asian Wave and Tidal Energy Conference, held in Singapore.
Although he’s only offered a “very calculated release of information,” so as not to spill the innovative jellyfish’s beans, his audiences have largely marveled, the CEO noted.
“In Scotland, it was standing-room-only when I presented,” he said. “The crowd was very interested and asked a lot of questions. In Singapore, it was the same, especially with the Chinese. They asked a lot of really good questions.”
Though he’s still seeking “support for the other half” of the ocean-testing project, Maramara’s engineers are already fast at work building those 20 kilowatt prototypes. About half of the work is being done on Long Island, he said, including work on the units’ hydraulic systems, power units and other high-tech components.
The jellyfish frames will be constructed in the Philippines, as will the concrete “heaving” structure that stabilizes the units, and final assembly of each unit will occur there.
Maramara said he’s confident that he’ll raise the additional $500,000 demanded by the ocean testing, referencing the Philippine government support, the First Gen commitment and the keen interest of his international competitors as evidence of his technological edge in a potentially multibillion-dollar alternative-energy race.
“It’s all because of the efficiency numbers we’re getting,” Maramara said. “Everyone finds it all very intriguing.”