The Innovation division of EDF aims to open up the range of possibilities and explore new businesses in order to achieve Net Zero faster. Within this division, EDF Pulse Ventures is the corporate venture capital (CVC) arm of the EDF Group. It has just completed a deep dive on wave energy to understand the potential of the technologies under development and to identify the most promising and innovative startups in the field.

Wave energy: a promising renewable energy according to EDF Pulse Ventures

With 91% of decarbonised electricity produced in 2021, the EDF Group is the world’s leading producer of low carbon electricity. In terms of renewable energies, it is the 1st producer of hydroelectricity in Europe and one of the world leaders in wind and solar power. As EDF wants to continue to lead the way on renewable energies, one of its major innovation challenge is to be at the forefront of new technologies that can be growth drivers for its production of renewable energy.

In this context, EDF Pulse Ventures is convinced that one of the next major trends in renewable energy development will be in the field of marine energy. Among them, wave energy holds a prime position, with the highest potential for energy production and a low variability.

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Wave energy: a promising market on the path to Net Zero according to EDF Pulse Ventures

Wave energy represents an energy potential of 5,000 TWh/year(1), which represents about 20% of the world’s electricity consumption in 2021(2) and almost twice the consumption of the European Union in 2022. According to several studies, the development of this technology in Europe could represent a total capacity between 16 and 35 MW by 2025, and up to 32 GW by 2050(3).

These figures tend to demonstrate the strong potential of this energy, even if the technologies are not fully mature yet.

Two main uses are identified as of today:

  • transport electricity produced from wave energy to the mainland and inject this energy into the grid;
  • directly use the electricity produced from wave energy to power local islands, ports or aquaculture installations.

4 emerging technologies

EDF Pulse Ventures has identified the 4 following wave energy technologies as the most promising for a strong development in the mid-term:

  • 1

    The point absorber

    Often shaped like a buoy, the point absorber can be submerged or – as it is the case most of the time – can float on the surface of the water. The movement of the waves exerts pressure on a mechanical energy converter which then drives an alternator. This is the most widespread technology in the wave energy sector to date.

  • 2

    The submerged pressure differential

    The submerged pressure differential technology employs pressure variations generated by the passage of waves to deform a flexible material, typically an air pocket, which compresses a hydraulic fluid. The resulting pressurized fluid is then utilised to drive a turbine or other power generation unit, converting the mechanical energy of the waves into electricity.

  • 3

    The rotating mass

    A rotating mass device is a system composed of a heavy mass coupled with an alternator, which converts the mechanical energy generated by the mass rotation into electrical energy. The device operates by harnessing the oscillating motion of waves, which initiates the mass rotation and triggers the electricity production process.

  • 4

    The oscillating water column

    An oscillating water column is a wave energy converter that uses an underwater air turbine. It consists of a partially submerged cylindrical column. As waves move up and down, they alternately compress and expand the air in the upper part of the column. This pressurized air is then used to spin a turbine and generate electricity.

10 innovative startups to follow in the wave energy space

During its deep dive, EDF Pulse Ventures, the corporate venture capital (CVC) arm of the EDF Group, in collaboration with the research firm DMEC, has identified around fifty startups spread over these four different types of technology. Among them, 10 seem to be particularly promising.

Infographic: Wave Energy Innovative Startups supported by EDF Pulse Ventures - Details above."

Some startups are also planning to combine offshore wind with wave energy devices, which could lead to significant synergies with some of the projects being developed by EDF Renewables.

You are a startup active in the field of wave energy?