Alumni Venture – AlphaMERS
Intellectual capability is per capita and better distributed around the world than oil resources. One needs to put the money where the mouth is and get down to developing it. Indians lack the risk appetite that innovation needs.
–Sekhar DC , Founder Director – AlphaMERS Ltd, Alumnus of EGMP 2008
It all started in early 2011, after a conversation with an overseas wave energy device manufacturer: the manufacturer was not getting investment to move his working prototype to commercialisation. He realised that his prototype was technically proven but was far too overcapitalised and did not make commercial sense anymore. If a product from such a developer was to penetrate the market, it could only happen on the crutches of Government oxygen, or ‘subsidies’. The viability gap was too much.
That was when Sekhar decided to design a converter to harness wave energy, with a sharp eye on the development costs. This was challenging as anything to do with the sea imposes a higher cost due to the logistics of moving these bulky devices over waters and the engineering costs for the harsh marine environment.
By Dec 2016, Sekhar had developed 3 designs. Two of these designs were small scale, for boats to generate power while at anchor. These were not prototyped. The third was a seabed-mounted device that could generate power on a higher scale. Sekhar was quite pessimistic about getting Government grants for the development, but fortunately Government officers pleasantly proved him wrong. It was a very professional interaction with officials of DSIR and the grant came without consuming too much time or administrative paperwork as he originally feared.
One of the challenges of innovation is to have testing facilities next door. It is not easy for a designer to move the prototype across hundreds of kilometres for design iterations. But when talking of wave energy, this was impossible in Bangalore. So a small wave tank was developed near the airport for the initial tests. This took up some good time initially.
Subsequent prototypes were broken into stages and the testing done to validate the design at each stage to avoid costly reruns.
The prototype was completed by Nov 2016 and the dry runs were good. Some engineering efficiency issues were answered with off the shelf parts. The customised parts could come later with commercial production.
The prototype was tested in the IIT Madras wave basin in Feb’2018. It was satisfactory and gave the confidence to plan for a larger pilot project at sea.
This wave energy converter is a seabed-mounted device approximately 6 meters long x 3 meters wide and about 1.5 meters high at the base unit. The floats are on the surface, and is what harnesses the energy. This model is a 5 kW unit, with built in flexibility to customise for various locations, with low or high tidal ranges, or varying maximum wave heights. This product is suitable for islands, ports or waterfront resorts which have unbroken waves in the vicinity. Unbroken being the key word, as the waves on the beach and the surf have lost their energy as they have already broken.
Covered by the Indian Express:
Featured in the Bangalore Mirror: