Ethan Arbiser (C'17): Summer internship in Israel

Ethan Arbiser (C’17) has spent an incredible summer in Israel as a participant in the Environmental Sciences Internship program. As a rising senior in Environmental Sciences and Jewish Studies, Ethan is learning and working at an Israeli renewable energy company, Eco Wave Power - a renewable energy startup generating electricity from wave currents and connecting that energy to city grids. On campus Ethan is president of TAMID at Emory  - an apolitical, areligious organization that develops the professional skills of undergraduate students through hands-on interaction with the Israeli economy and startups. As a broader organization, TAMID supports a summer fellowship program in Israel bringing students from 30-35 colleges around the US to work at Israeli startups matching their interests and intended career paths. Ethan was fortunate to be selected as a fellow this summer and has been fittingly matched with a renewable energy company.

We asked Ethan to share in a blog-like post about his internship experience this summer and to give us some insight into the work of Eco Wave Power. Ethan, along with 19 other students, will be completing the ENVS Independent Study requirement through a summer internship experience and will enroll in ENVS 497: Undergraduate Internship this fall semester with Professor Yandle (ENVS) and Paul Bredderman (Emory Career Center).


BLOG POST: August 2016

Eco Wave Power (EWP) was established in 2011. EWP generates energy from the waves using uniquely shaped floaters that rise and fall with the up and down motion and change of water level through hydraulic technology. The energy generated from this action is transmitted into to proximal power station with a generator that connects to an urban electricity grid.  The floaters are attached to existing manmade structures including docks and jetties. This technology is extremely unique compared to other wave energy technology because all the technology is located onshore, rather than offshore (90% of the system is located on land). Being onshore minimizes operation and maintenance costs compared to other offshore technologies since technicians do not have to travel out to the ocean to fix an issue. By resting on such infrastructures, the technology also increases the life expectancy of the structures, resulting in fewer resources spent on repairing structures from wave impact. Eco Wave Power’s technology also minimizes the transportation of electricity compared to offshore competitors. With offshore technology, the electricity must be transported from the ocean to the shore through cables that often disrupt ocean habitats - Eco Wave Power’s technology does not interfere with the ocean’s natural habitats.

EWP established a research and development plant in Jaffa Port, Israel for research and development.  In June of 2014, the company signed its first 5MW Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Government of Gibraltar for a commercial scale grid-connected station in Europe. In April of 2016, EWP completed the final construction stage of the first 100KW in Gibraltar, and has since been approved to complete the remaining 4.9MW. This is the first commercial, wave energy array in Europe that is selling electricity to the electrical grid through a PPA. The company has subsidiaries in China, Mexico, and Chile, and is currently working on the development of 111MW projects pipeline.

 Why wave energy as a source of renewable energy? There is an immediate need to apply green energy technologies in general, and wave energy technologies in particular, due to several important reasons: the first being the severe shortage of electricity around the world. Many developed countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have issued renewable energy targets stating that 20% of final energy consumption should come from renewable sources by 2020. This puts a great deal of pressure on countries to find cost effective methods of renewable energy.

According to Professor Dilip Ahuja, at least 1.6 billion people — one-fourth of the world’s population — currently live without electricity. Although it has been estimated that developing countries spent as much as $40 to $60 billion annually on electricity systems at the end of the 20th century (G8, RETF, 2001), it remains that approximately 40% of the population in these countries do not have access to electricity. The number of people throughout the world without access to electricity has hardly changed in absolute terms since 1970 (UNDP, 2000, p. 374). Four billion people live within 400 kilometers of a seacoast and just over half the world’s population – around 3.2 billion people – occupy a coastal strip 200 kilometers wide (120 miles), representing only 10 per cent of the earth’s land surface (Hinrichsen). With this population distribution, increasing human numbers and mounting development, the need for wave energy is becoming unavoidable.

The second and most pressing reason for the implementation of green energy technologies for many oil-importing countries is economic. A rapid rise in world oil prices has led to a steep unmanageable increase of their import bill for energy commodities. For example, the value of India’s oil imports increased by more than 20% in a single year, from $33 billion in 2006 to an estimated $40 billion in 2007 (Ahuja). Oil prices have continued to rise substantially since 2005, adding further to this financial burden.

A third, important energy-related challenge is environmental. Energy use in many countries is a significant and immediate cause of high levels of air pollution and other forms of environmental degradation. Energy-related emissions from power plants are largely responsible—especially in major cities—for levels of ambient air pollution. In both urban and rural areas, indoor air pollution caused by the use of traditional fuels exposes billions of people to significant cardiovascular and respiratory health risks. In many cases, adverse environmental impacts begin well upstream of the point of energy end-use. The extraction of commercial fuels like coal and oil is often highly damaging to global ecosystems and becomes a direct cause of land and water pollution. Unlike other renewable energy sources, power from sea waves continues to be produced around the clock and is dependent on wave conditions.

For the renewable energy market, there are a wide variety of techniques that are able to capture natural resources. However, unlike solar and wind power, the technology for capturing wave power has yet to be fully discovered. This includes offshore and onshore technology. Currently, the biggest trend in the renewable energy sector is wave energy. Wave energy is currently the least saturated market in the renewable energy industry. The current market for renewable wave energy is comparable to the solar power industry 15 years ago.

Implementing Eco Wave Power's technology is often difficult through government collaboration. Thus, a strategy that the company has pursued is through collaboration with shoreline institutes including ports. Ports are a significant contributor to the global issue of carbon footprint into the Ozone. According to an Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) survey, it estimates that the region’s container activity emitted 865 mega tonnes of CO2 in 2013. There is an urgent need for ports to adopt energy reduction plans including the implementation of alternative energy sources. It has become increasingly common for energy-intensive organizations, like ports, to activate on-site renewable technology to reduce energy costs, to receive long-terms savings, to avoid extensive emissions, and to raise corporate awareness for sustainability and the environment. This is the concept of a "Green Port." Eco Wave Power guarantees to supply the port with a certain amount of clean free electricity, for its internal everyday needs. Such source of electricity will be both reliable and emission free, thus benefiting port infrastructure and the environment. Additionally, implementation of our technology will promote ecotourism to ports, as it will portray these ports as pioneers in the wave energy field. This would also foster a greater human appreciation for natural habitats and resources. Port infrastructure often deteriorates due to the harsh ocean conditions creating extra spending and energy on repairs and maintenance. When oncoming waves hit the port, their erosive power is concentrated on the stagnant port structure. This shortens the life span of the breakwater, therefore causing large scale expenses for its renovation. When a wave crashes into the port retrofitted with the floaters, it’s able to capture the wave energy, convert it to electricity, and prevent coastal and breakwater erosion. Shoreline infrastructure is an option for renewable energy opportunities. I strongly believe that wave energy in general, and our technology in particular, is the fastest and most reliable solution to the above-mentioned difficulties. The World Energy Council estimates that the energy that can be harvested from the world’s oceans is equal to twice the amount of electricity that the world produces now; worth more than one trillion USD. Harnessing that clean, cost-efficient energy will certainly assist the world’s green and economic development.

As an intern at Eco Wave Power, I am assigned a variety of interesting tasks. One of my favorite tasks is creating a country proposal, these proposals provide EWP with information regarding optimal location to launch/ pursue their technology. This is extremely interesting because not only must I analyze the wave conditions and shoreline infrastructure, but also consider the government’s infrastructure and regional energy needs. Other tasks include extensive grant research for implementation on shores abroad, investor research, and managing social media.

From this experience, I’ve gained vast amounts of insight about energy initiatives. This includes understanding the interdisciplinary process of implementing sustainability and renewable energy to a country. One must understand the country’s environmental conditions while being able to navigate through a variety of government procedures in order for proper enactment of the technology. Furthermore, learning about an extremely niche market of renewable energy has given me very high hopes for renewable energy, particularly wave energy. I plan to be an active participant in such global sustainability initiatives in the future.

Other works cited:
Ahuja, Dilip. "Sustainable Energy for Developing Countries." Https://sapiens.revues.org/823. SAPIENS, n.d. Web.
Hinrichsen, Don. "THE COASTAL POPULATION EXPLOSION." Oceanservice.nooa.gov (n.d.): n. pag. THE COASTAL POPULATION EXPLOSION. Oceanservice.nooa.gov. Web.