Eco Wave Power is an Israeli-based ocean wave energy company on everyone’s radar as an industry leader. As a source of energy, ocean waves have been far outpaced by developments in solar and wind technology, but not due to a lack of effort. Without success, tons of money has been poured into producing commercially viable wave energy solutions.
Multiple players are competing to establish a wave energy solution with commercial acceptance. EWP stands out against the competition because it does something no one else is doing. While everyone else is offshore, EWP is placing ocean wave stations onshore.
EWP has a unique solution that offers lower costs and zero environmental impact. The company is ahead of its competition with an established proof of concept for its technology, which has taken over ten years to develop and serves as a competitive moat. EWP has begun taking early steps into the commercial stage with a plan to scale on a global basis. Strong tailwinds for the adaptation of ocean wave energy will help.
Ocean waves are a logical source of energy because waves are constant and abundant as the majority of the earth’s surface is ocean water. However, wave energy is underutilized because:
- High costs of maintaining equipment located in harsh offshore ocean weather conditions and the effects of corrosive sea salt.
- Difficulties in capturing wave energy in offshore locations due to alternating wave direction and height.
- Concerns about ecological damage to sea life from equipment bolted to the ocean floor.
Many creative solutions have found some success, but the most challenging problem for wave energy to overcome has been the lack of reliability in capturing waves, as AbuBakr Bahaj, professor of sustainable energy at the UK University of Southampton, explains in the International Marine Energy Journal where he serves as editor-in-chief:
The key problem is variability because waves are in constant flux and move in multiple directions and heights, devices must also be flexible and durable enough to both harness energy and handle heavy and constant motion. t’s very difficult to capture a lot of energy.
EWP solves several problems by placing wave energy stations on existing land-based structures such as jetties, piers, and docks, which significantly reduces the cost of building and maintaining stations while eliminating environmental impact and adding the ability to capture energy where wave direction always matches the shoreline.
The EWP system uses simple technology that features floaters that house hydraulic pistons that compress and decompress as the waves cause the ocean levels to rise and fall. Built-up pressure inside the pistons powers a generator that creates electricity fed into the grid. The system is automated and raises the floaters to a safe height above the water level during storm conditions.
Proof of Concept
EWP was founded in Tel Aviv in 2011 and installed its first grid-connected wave energy plant in Gilbraltar in 2016. This location was selected to serve as a testing ground due to the extreme weather conditions presented by the Mediterranean Ocean surrounding Gilbraltar. The pilot station was originally contracted for only two years, but EWP has been operating the station for six years, compiling data and making efficiency improvements that now serve as EWP’s proof of concept. EWP also has a pilot wave energy station in Israel.
Cost is a major factor to consider. The Gibraltar 100 KW plant cost $450K to construct, as I learned from a recent conversation with CEO Braverman, who added that EWP stations generate electricity at a cost of $0.05 per KW/h. An equivalent coal energy plant would cost $1.75 million to construct and produce energy at a rate of $0.03 per KW/h. The construction costs are obviously much higher for a coal energy plant than a wave energy station but so is the cost of energy production when factoring in health and environmental factors according to data compiled by Brookings:
Consider: coal power plants provide roughly 45 percent of U.S. electricity at a seemingly bargain price — just 3.2 cents per Kilowatt hour (KWh) of electricity, or enough power to run your microwave for an hour. But the real cost of that energy is, in fact, 170 percent higher. Each KWh of coal-generated electricity comes with an additional 5.6 cents of damages to our well-being. This includes about 3.4 cents in adverse health impacts, according to a recent National Academies of Science report. The remaining 2.2 cents, based on the U.S. government’s social price of carbon calculations, results from climate change-related damages.
The use of renewable energy sources has been on the rise, particularly wind energy, the fastest growing renewable. Wind cannot be a constant source of energy in most parts of the world and requires a backup, which ocean wave energy can provide. Considering that wind energy costs $0.08 to produce, EWP offers a superior alternative to wind energy where ocean waves are available.
EWP has a long sales cycle that begins with providing education and fulfilling local licensing and permits requirements. The company then seeks to establish a local proof of concept by establishing a pilot wave energy project for each jurisdiction. Pilots lead to commercial purchase agreements and larger-scale power stations.
The company is flexible as to the range of terms from providing a full turnkey power station or entering into a joint venture and is willing to operate the power stations or transfer ownership. EWP also seeks to provide electricity for private enterprises such as a marina for resale to boat owners or a commercial harbor providing electricity for loading and unloading cargo. The company also offers feasibility studies for prospective clients.
EWP is primarily focused on pursuing opportunities in Europe and recently began establishing a market in the U.S. The E.U. has a long history of wave energy research and continues to pour funding into this pursuit. The U.S. electrical grid lacks the capacity to meet expected demand while wave energy has the potential to satisfy two-thirds of the total U.S. demand for electricity.
Management sees two significant opportunities in the U.S. The first is a large market lacking wave energy commercial infrastructure. There are currently no commercial wave energy plants in the U.S. Management also believes that penetrating the U.S. market will validate the company’s technology and ease expansion into other territories that have had comparatively little wave energy activity, such as the African continent, which has the most significant amount of people in the world living off the grid, and Chile, considered to be the country with the most significant wave energy potential in the world.
EWP has entered into an agreement with AltaSea, a private non-profit scientific ocean startup accelerator, to relocate the Gilbraltar energy conversion unit to the Port of Los Angeles in California for connection to the electric grid. Ocean waves behave differently in different locations and climates. EWP plans to use the Port of Los Angeles station to establish itself on the U.S. west coast.
The agreement with AltaSea includes joint participation in a grant submission by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, a finalist in the Economic Development Administration Build Back Better Regional Challenge, and finding other locations for EWP wave energy stations, hopefully in the states of Oregon and Washington, considered to be the U.S. hotspots for wave energy.
The original Gibraltar pilot has led to new projects in neighboring Portugal and Spain. EWP has been awarded a permit to proceed with the installation of a 1MW wave energy power station to be connected to the grid in Porto, Portugal. The agreement calls for future expansion into a 20MW station. In Spain, EWP will pursue the licensing and construction of a 2MW wave energy station at Port Adriano owned by OCIBAR, a Spanish marina owner and operator. The full terms of this agreement have not yet been determined. Gibraltar is expected to order a new EWP wave conversion station to replace the transferred pilot station.
EWP is finalizing the construction of the first grid-connected wave energy plant in Israel, named the EWP-EDF One project. The project is a collaboration agreement co-funded by the Israeli Ministry of Energy for the construction of a 100KW wave energy station in Jaffa, Israel. EWP is also working with the Israeli Navy to determine the feasibility of installing its technology on Israeli Navy bases.
The company signed an agreement with CIMC Offshore Engineering Institute to promote an EWP pilot project in China and has an MOU to develop a 9MW wave energy station in the Port of Pecem, Brazil. Interesting to note that the Port of Pecem hosted the first wave energy station in Latin America from 2010 to 2015.
In recent years, the cyclical nature of the price of oil has had a parallel effect on the amount invested in developing renewable energy technology and in turn, wave energy technology. The timing seems right at this time for the commercialization of wave energy as compounded factors are driving a strong renewed interest in wave energy:
- Efforts to connect large populations living off the grid.
- Supply chain problems caused by geopolitical issues such as the war in Ukraine.
- Concerns over global warming and pollution, aggravated by burning fossil fuels.
Undaunted by a lack of past success, the EU has set a target of 100 megawatts of wave and tidal energy production by 2025. EWP’s new projects in Spain and Portugal are a direct result of this initiative.
EWP’s efforts to establish wave energy in the U.S. are supported by The U.S. Department of Energy’s $27 million wave energy funding program announced in January as a part of the administration’s goal of reaching zero emissions by 2050. Eight projects have been funded to test their respective technologies at PacWave, at the University of Oregon near the port of Newport, Oregon. Each participant is automatically licensed to commence testing in 2023, avoiding the red tape and delays in obtaining permits.
Individual U.S. states have been conducting wave energy research for years. No project has yet gone beyond the pilot stage. New Jersey is gearing up to take the lead by including wave energy as part of the state’s Energy Master Plan. EWP’s CEO Inna Braverman was called upon to testify before the NJ legislator’s wave energy hearings in March and has established her company’s credentials working with Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, the Chairman of The New Jersey Assembly Special Committee on Infrastructure and Natural Resources. Mr. Karabinchak spoke at the EWP Nasdaq bellringing in January:
As a legislature, we are looking at creating more renewable energy sources to add to our clean energy goals, and wave energy is one that we believe is going to have the ability to grow. We talked to other companies that are doing the same thing, but Inna’s was way farther along in the technology.
New Jersey aims to be 100% carbon-free by 2050 and expects to reach that goal by combining all available renewable energy sources utilizing EWP’s technology to supplement solar when the sun goes down or is covered by clouds and wind on calm weather days. EWP’s wave stations could be placed along NJ’s long seashore with miles of ideal built-up existing marine structures and nearshore on existing wind farms.
EWP has a partnership agreement with Ocean Power Technologies (OPTT) to combine resources. OPTT has been involved in offshore wave energy projects for thirty years. An OPTT representative testified with EWPs CEO at the NJ wave energy hearings in March. EWP stands to benefit from the connections that OPTT has established and OPTT can benefit from employing EWP’s technology along with their own.
Other onshore wave energy companies
Island nation Japan has placed concrete wave breakers called tetrapods at about one-third of its coastline to protect against erosion. Researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Technology began installing in 2017 small turbines that look like flowers on the tetrapods to collect wave energy. Tetrapods are located on shorelines around the world and may present another opportunity for EWP, although Ms. Braverman related to me that she has been unaware on the Japanese project with tetrapods.
Wave Star is a company in Denmark that was pursuing nearshore wave energy, albeit via a different technology than EWP. The company does not appear to have any active project at this time. There’s also been research conducted in Greece using direct drive technology with no commercial project developments.
Investors need to consider that EWP is a pre-revenue company with a sales cycle that includes pilot projects that take years to evaluate before possibly leading to commercial scaling. The early start is impressive considering how many different countries that EWP has developed an interest in but management has no prior experience in scaling a company. EWP has not proved it can produce energy at a low cost on a commercial basis.
EWP’s founders have stated that they have studied predecessors’ efforts to determine what not to do in developing EWP’s technology. There is a lot of history to review as the first ocean wave energy patent goes back to 1799. To gain a perspective on past efforts to develop wave energy, it is best to concentrate on recent history in England and the E.U. because England is considered the country with the second-largest wave energy potential in the world, and where wave energy research became a hot topic from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s with over 340 patents granted. Interest went parabolic in the E.U. over the last ten years, where wave energy research was the beneficiary of over $400 million in research funding. All of this activity has led to not one commercial wave energy station.
Notable failures in recent history:
- Pelamis operated the first wave-powered energy station attached to the grid in Scotland in 2004. It attempted to solve the problem of catching energy from the ocean by placing converters in snake-like housing that could adjust to wave directional changes. A second Pelamis wave station was added in Porto, Portugal. Both stations were shut down in 2008.
- China is the second-place finisher in terms of the amount invested in wave energy and interestingly “developed” identical technology to Pelamis snake-like converter in 2015. Since the Pelamis company no longer existed, there wasn’t anyone around to make an infringement claim, but nevertheless, China enjoyed about the same amount of success as Pelamis did with this concept.
- Ocean Power Technologies abandoned a 660-ton power buoy project off the coast of Oregon funded by $9 million in grants from the federal and Oregon governments.
- A 19MW wave energy project in Australia was cancelled due to cost feasibility despite a $66.5 million government grant.
- Oceanlinx developed an offshore wave energy converter that required no connection to the ocean floor and no moving parts below the waterline. The project was abandoned in 2014.
- Seabased Industries had wave energy projects in Bermuda, Ghana, and the Canary Islands. The company claimed that its operations had no negative outcome on the environment. Seabased was liquidated in 2019.
Share and financial information
EWP began trading on the Nasdaq in July and quickly hit a high of $30 per share, 275% above the $8 offering price. The company completed a $9.2 million public offering simultaneously with the listing and reported almost $15 million in cash and about $1 million in debt at the end of 2021. The company also receives grant money for research and has enough funds to carry out operations for at least the next three years without a need to raise funds.
There are about 5.5 million shares of which insiders own slightly more than half. At the current market price of $6.10 per share, the market cap is $34 M and the EV is $10 M. At the current valuation, it won’t take much revenue to create a value proposition. Once the company begins to scale, growth is added to the equation. The company has established collaboration agreements beyond the pilot stage in Spain and Portugal that are expected to soon be generating revenue.
Just $5 M in revenue results in a very modest EV/S ratio of 2x. Looking out two or three years from now, if the company has added new energy stations across the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Asia, revenues will far exceed $5 M. Investors, myself included need to monitor the progress and stay the course as long as the fundamentals remain unchanged and management’s guidance matches performance.
CEO Inna Braverman is a recipient of accolades from just about every media outlet and many non-profit agencies interested in the expansion of renewable energy. Her story is well told from being born in Ukraine just before the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, suffering respiratory arrest from the fallout to starting a new life in Israel and co-founding EWP in 2011 at the age of 24.
Ms. Braverman met entrepreneur David Leb at a party and they found a shared passion for wave energy. Ms. Braverman was driven by her experience with nuclear energy in Ukraine and her exposure to the ocean in her new homeland of Israel. Mr. Leb owns a surfer resort in Panama and developed an interest in wave energy from watching surfers manipulate the waves. Mr. Leb is a serial entrepreneur with patents for advertising on the human body and online trivia games along with patents for the Power Wing and Wave Clapper designs which protect the mechanical portions of the wave energy station from saltwater and from contaminating the ocean.
Before co-founding EWP, Ms. Braverman and Mr. Leb studied everything that had gone wrong in developing wave energy and came up with their solution of going onshore while everyone else was offshore. Mr. Leb provided $1 million as the company’s first funding. Ms. Braverman went to work and held a contest in Ukraine searching for engineering concepts that fit what she and Mr. Leb envisioned. Five engineers were deemed the winners and were hired by EWP and began working on tank testing to develop the EWP technology at the Institute of Hydromechanics in Kyiv in 2011, which led to a pilot wave station in the Black Sea in 2012, Jaffa Port in 2014, and Gibraltar in 2016.
The company is developing multiple opportunities throughout the globe, which has led to the recent appointed of Avi Waller as COO. Mr. Waller was previous the CEO of an Israeli engineering company. He will oversee the day to day activities of the company allowing Ms. Braverman to pursue opening new doors through education and lobbying for legislative action favorable to wave energy, similarly to what she has been doing in NJ.
Pedro Ernesto Ferreira was recently appointed head of EWP’s Portuguese operations. Mr. Ferreira has been employed overseeing hydroelectric assets for Portugal’s electric company. He will provide oversight of EWP’s new station as well as business development in Portugal. Ms. Braverman expects to hire a person for a similar role in the U.S.
The development of wave energy is years behind the development of other renewable energy technology. EWP’s solution seems to solve the problems that have been holding the industry back. Early acceptance of EWP’s technology all over the globe is a positive indicator that the company is on its way to commercially scaling. There does not appear to be a competitor that offers a similar product. The company is well funded to pursue its business plan and due to the small amount of shares it will not take much revenue to ignite a bombastic stock price rally.