Not many venture capitalists have yet tried to catch the small but growing trend of funding wave-powered startups. Part of that is because the technology is still in the works, as became clear when publicly traded wave company Finavera saw its test buoy sink. But Venrock, Advent Venture Partners, Wellington Partners and Norway’s North Zone have decided to dive in. The firms have put 12 million British pounds (or $24 million) into six year old UK-based wave startup OreCon (The Times and VentureBeat have more on the deal).
The Times says OreCon is building a giant steel buoy, 40 meters in diameter, that will be tethered four miles offshore and will be able to generate 1.5 megawatts by 2010. VentureBeat notes that the company’s design is an innovation on a traditional wave power structure that uses the pressure of the waves to keep the device floating above the water. The company has added multiple chambers around a platform, which is then tied to the sea floor.
The burgeoning wave power industry has its own unique set of hurdles. Getting approval from local regulatory bodies can be a lengthy and complicated process. The technology also needs a specific type of environment — one that provides enough waves to generate energy, but not so many that they damages the buoys. Then there’s the technology innovation itself, which as Finavera’s sunken buoy proved, continues to be in the development stage.
Still, the right technology tweak could provide a wave of clean energy for utilities looking to shore up their green portfolios. And venture capitalists are taking notice. Seattle-based canal and wave-powered device startup Hydrovolts is looking to raise capital, and Pelamis Wave Power has already raised 40 million pounds from a list of investors including Emerald Technology Ventures, 3i and the Carbon Trust.