119 Developing Mexican Patents for Renewable EnergyWed, 02/19/2014 - 16:42
Wave and tidal energy are new, reliable and affordable alternative energy sources that are destined to be added to the Mexican energy mix in the coming years. “Marine energy is one of the most efficient energies in the world because it is predictable and there is a very limited amount of time during which there are no waves,” says Francisco Carrión, CEO of Marersa. “Mexico has 11,000km of coast and we are able to harvest 1MW per 80m of coast at an 85% to 95% efficiency rate.” Another advantage of marine energy is that it avoids the problem of land ownership, which is one of the major challenges that must be overcome in developing energy projects in Mexico. Marine energy projects must not necessarily be located on beaches but can be in rocky coastal areas that are not usually in high demand.
The value that this technology can bring needs to be proven before the government will be motivated to push for its development. “In 2009, the Chamber of Deputies allocated US$2 million to deploying marine energy, but in the end decided not to use the money, showing us that they were not willing to explore new technologies,” says Carrión, who expects that the new government will be more interested in marine energy than the previous one was. The private sector is expected to be an important market for marine energy technologies as companies are becoming more aware of the technologies that are being used. Companies like Marersa are already starting to develop a pipeline of projects for the private sector and this will grow as time passes. “We are planning to use our patented hydraulic and mechanical systems to harvest the energy from waves and we are going to be able to install 20kW equipment for beach houses and small buildings,” says Carrión. “However, we are also focusing on working with companies that have consumption levels exceeding 1MW.”
Marersa views innovation as key to ensuring continued success. The company has patented modified wind turbines with a powerful electromagnetic ring that aids movement. Though this equipment does not support perpetual movement, only a small amount of wind is needed to make it spin, and the modifications the company has made have increased the efficiency of the turbine from 30% to 48%. Another important breakthrough made by Marersa has been the foldable solar panels it has developed.
Developing new technologies in Mexico can be challenging. Carrión says Marersa has struggled with the government to get several projects going, particularly in the wind sector. Furthermore, he believes Mexico does not have full confidence in most renewable energies. In order to attract private sector investment and earn a position in the market, reducing the cost of wave and tidal energy has been the main priority. Marine technology is expensive and maintenance costs are high because the equipment is located underwater. “We are not going to need any oil to use our systems, which makes our equipment different from the equipment developed by other companies,” explains Carrión. “This technology was developed by Marersa along with an aircraft company that manufactures parts for Boeing and Airbus.” The aerospace company that collaborated with Marersa had been developing the system for two years, testing it on beaches to prove that the technology works, and it is today Marersa’s exclusive representative worldwide. In 2015 a manufacturing plant will be built in Mexico to start exporting Marersa’s technologies.
Marersa is not only using its own developed and patented technologies but is also constantly in search of the best innovations around the world. For example, in order to avoid electricity leaks, nanotechnology from Germany is going to be used in the recently patented mechanical equipment developed by the company. “We integrate these technologies into our solutions and we give them a wide variety of applications while avoiding the use of pollutants to minimize the environmental impact,” says Carrión.
The company is also focusing on a technological solution for electric cars: by using piezoelectricity - crystals that generate voltage when compressed or distorted - the tires of the car are able to generate energy that can be sent to the batteries. “Generating wave energy with hydraulics and mechanics and using piezoelectricity adapted to tires to charge electric cars are our breakthrough patents,” comments Carrión. These patents will be very useful in positioning the company and its technologies in the Mexican renewable energy market. Carrión claims that the company’s main project for this year is the construction of its first 100MW tidal development in Mexico, due to be finished by the first semester of 2014, with another 100MW due to be completed by mid-2015. He is also planning to use the patented technology to expand into other countries and approach partners in the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama and Guatemala. “In five years, we hope that we will have proved the cost-efficiency of marine energy plants and that we have started developing new technologies,” concludes Carrión.