Portugal On Crest Of Wave In Sustainable Energy Push

With Portugal recognised as being amongst the leading countries globally when it comes to sustainable energy and environmentally friendly policies, it is of little surprise that it is heavily involved in new technology to harness the abundant power of ocean waves.

The Waveroller ocean energy system is a partnership between private investors in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Finland, Turkey, the UK, and Canada. It recently passed a major certification test which moved it significantly closer to being used in Portuguese waters. The Atlantic waters to the south and west of Portugal offer a vast territory for harnessing the power of the natural movement of the ocean.

Essentially, it’s a machine that converts the energy of an ocean wave into electricity, operating less than a kilometre from the shore, and positioned at depths of 8 and 20 metres. Depending on the depth at which it is functioning, the Waveroller is almost completely submerged, and is fixed to the seabed. The units can be used as individual generators or as part of ‘farms’.

The back and forth movement of seawater in waver motion activates the Waveroller panels, which can absorb up to two megawatts of power from each wave surge. As the panel moves and absorbs the energy from the wave, it activates a hydraulics system which drives an electricity generator. The generator is connected via a marine cable to an electricity grid onshore.

Ocean based technology has been identified by the EU’s network of European Technology and Innovation Partnerships (ETIP) as being particularly viable for Europe, and other parts of the world. However, ETIP has also said that private sector partnerships are vital to ensure the technology continues to develop, and has called on governments to invest in what the oceans can offer, in terms of sustainable energy solutions. “The technological progress made by ocean energy has been a true European success story, with project teams from across Europe collaborating within EU programs, such as Horizon 2020 and Interreg”, said Donagh Cagney, Ocean Energy Europe’s policy director. “To unlock available EU support and private investment, we now call upon national governments to play their part and earmark revenue support specifically for ocean energy.”

In late April, Portugal was ranked third in the world in the Good Countries index, in terms of being one of the most environmentally friendly nations in which to work, or to visit. The Good Country index takes a number of important factors into account, including the percentage of renewable energy in usage, and the country’s ecological footprint when compared to its size.

Portugal’s coasts will be home to ocean energy. Copyright: Sean Pavone /

This ranking comes shortly after it was announced that the country plans to double its production of sustainable electricity by 2030, as part of the Portuguese Energy & Climate Action Plan 2030 . In addition, Portugal was ranked first when it came to which countries were developing policies to combat climate change.

According to this plan, renewable electricity sources are expected to account for more than 80 percent of electricity consumption by 2030. Currently, the country is producing more than half of its electricity needs using sustainable sources; with hydroelectric and wind plants delivering 46 percent, biomass 5 percent, and photovoltaic 1.5. This saves the country over three quarters of a billion euros annually in terms of fossil fuel imports.

In order to drive business in this area, foreigners who invest in the green economy will be eligible for a residency permit, and eventually, Portuguese nationality. Investment in renewable energy, ecotourism, organic agriculture, and environmental projects, are all supported by this scheme.

In addition, 2020 will see Lisbon take over the mantle of European Green Capital 2020, emerging victorious from more than 30 cities throughout the country, who were vying for the title. The Portuguese capital will be the third Southern European city to be awarded this title – following Spain’s Vitoria-Gasteiz in 2012 and France’s Nantes in 2013  – with judges suitably impressed by the city’s efforts to prove that sustainable energy and economic growth can indeed go hand in hand.

Lisbon has become recognised as a city that blends sustainability with innovation, when it comes to areas like waste, sustainable energy, and public transport. Throughout the country, day to day sustainability has become the norm in terms of things like composting and recycling, with specialised bins widespread for different waste, including one for batteries.

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Ruairi Kavanagh

Ruairi is an Irish writer, editor and author with 25 years of experience across national and specialist media. He specialises in reporting on matters relating to education, development,emergency services, international affairs, defence and security with particular interest in European affairs, the Balkan region, the Middle East and Africa.

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