When you hear “renewable energy” you may think solar panels or wind turbines. But these are only the start of something even bigger. The daily rise and fall of the sun’s heat create wind, and winds concentrate their energy into ocean waves that store, transport and deliver power to shore.
We set out to translate this reliable energy to restore a scarce and precious resource: fresh water.
Like a wave, our story began in 2002 as a research experiment. Simon Wijnberg’s MSc project at the University of Cape Town sought to design and develop a system that could capture wave energy to force seawater through a purifying reverse osmosis filter.
It never would have gained traction without early support. At the University, Dr. Waldron in the Oceanography department combined expertise and oversight with that of Prof. Bennett in Mechanical Engineering. Soon the National Research Foundation provided funds for materials to build the first model. Employees of the Institute of Maritime Technology helped construct and test the first Werop at their indoor pool. The Water Research Commission funded construction of a second light duty full-scale proto-type, which has been deployed offshore of IMT since 2009.
The project has overcome many obstacles, and benefitted from substantial feedback. Yet no critic has been more constructive than the sea itself. A living, heaving marine environment provides the ideal proving ground. Sand erodes. Salt corrodes. Storms batter. Tides surge. Each wave that did not break the Werop made it stronger. Physical setbacks led us to make the pumps function more efficiently. But wear and tear over time also led us to improve the design of our entire operational system. We sought simple ease of access, performance, and maintenance.
As a result, after five years, our Werop has proven itself robust:
- There is no rust on the main structure
- The unique patented mooring aligns the Werop to work with the waves, rather than against them
- Adaptability maximises productivity while minimising wear-and-tear
- The system can be deployed on sand and moved at will.
- Adaptability reduces negative impacts, and provides a sheltered reef for fisheries.
- The design can be scaled to suit the unique needs of our clientele.
But don’t take our word for it. You deserve third party verification. To validate our claims, a techno-economic analysis was recently conducted by Prof David Walwyn of RESEVA. The results were very positive, and the report is available for potential clients.