Frisian kite takes power from the tide
Converting the huge power of the sea into energy. SeaQurrent does this. It generates electricity from the tidal current using a kite. A technologically advanced underwater kite, that is.
Youri Wentzel invented the system. Six years ago, the Frisian sketched the first ideas on a notepad. “I’m a fervent sailor, also at sea. It makes you very aware of the power that the sea contains. It was therefore logical for me at a certain point to wonder: why don’t we make more use of it?”
Prior to that, Wentzel held various technical positions in the oil and gas industry. Experience that was useful for him during the development of SeaQurrent. Experience which also slowly but surely planted the idea in him that the way we deal with our earth is not sustainable. He knows that a different way of generating energy is required.
The power of the sea
This very spring, Wentzel and his team are travelling to the Wadden Sea to extensively test their technology. This is taking place on and under a large pontoon where people from SeaQurrent will stay for several weeks, as well as students and researchers, for the purposes of collecting data. If the test succeeds, the underwater kite will be tried out in full-scale next year, before storming the market.
Maurits Alberda joined the club to help steer this in the right direction with his background in the field of marketing and innovation, including at the Energy Academy. “I’ve seen a lot of innovations in the sustainable energy sector, but this one immediately appealed to me. The predictability of the energy supply is particularly strong, I think. This is completely new. We are now going to show that it works and how efficient it is. We envisage that we’ll ultimately be building tidal power stations with, for example, twenty kites, good for supplying energy to around 14,000 households. Apart from that: I love the water, diving and sailing, so I also know the power and beauty of the sea. We want to preserve it and with this we can do it.”
Kite steers itself
This is roughly how the system works. A large underwater kite comes under pressure due to the force of the tides and pulls a cable. This tensile force is converted into propulsion which then makes a turbine run. The power generated in this way is directly transported via a cable.
“The idea is simple, but the execution is still difficult”, says Youri Wentzel. “I sometimes compare it with the development of a self-steering car. That’s our kite too, self-steering. Anyone who sails, knows that you go fastest when the sail is a bit crosswinded. Our underwater kite does the same. Sensors tell it from which direction the tidal current is coming, the kite adjusts the wing angle accordingly to catch as much force as possible.”
SeaQurrent has been working with the University of Groningen, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, the NHL and Van Hall Larenstein for many years to create this technical piece of art. Wentzel: “Such an incredible amount of knowledge is involved, there’s no way you can do it alone. Many students have already done calculations, thought about the design, the materials, the legal aspects, you name it.”
Bundling clever minds and persevering
The VentureLab occupies a special place. Wentzel learned a lot there. “Especially about all the things around it. Entrepreneurship involves more than perseverance, inspiration and a good idea. The VentureLab is also the place where I bumped into Maurice.”
Things have developed pretty quickly with SeaQurrent. It’s only been three years since Wentzel quit his job and threw himself into his kite fulltime. The company now employs eleven people, and researchers and students are constantly in and out. Every day the design gets better. Maurits Alberda: “This is the way to give radical new energy concepts a chance. You need to assemble a distinctive team with clever minds and have perseverance in spades.”