While Pemberton definitely isn’t a seaside community, one resident is very invested in the ocean.
Nigel Protter, who has lived in the Whistler and Pemberton area for almost 30 years, is now president and CEO of SyncWave Energy Inc., an ocean wave technology company. Protter founded the company four years ago, after realizing that oil and gas resources can’t realistically be replaced with wind, hydro and solar energy sources alone.
“We’ve got two big problems: climate change and energy security… and we can’t solve it with terrestrial energy sources,” said Protter. “…So I started thinking about ocean energy.”
The company recently developed a unique device, called the SyncWave Power Resonator, which captures ocean energy. While the idea of harnessing ocean energy isn’t new, it hasn’t been a commercially viable energy source because of flaws with some devices developed in the past.
SyncWave’s device is unique because it taps the domain frequency of ocean swells, generating power on both the up and down movement, and absorbs energy from relative motion, meaning the device isn’t fixed to the ocean floor, which results in fewer repairs.
The device’s minimal undersea infrastructure also leads to lower installation and service costs, and fewer impacts to the marine environment.
“Our technology is considered the best, the most promising wave energy technology in the world right now by a lot of people,” said Protter.
But developing the new technology wasn’t easy.
“We did a much deeper search of the global patent history in wave energy. We looked at all the competing companies and ideas out there, and this went on for several months, and finally about two and a half years ago, the concept we call SyncWave Power Resonator fell out of that analysis,” said Protter.
Protter teamed up with Dr. Bradley Buckham of the University of Victoria, and signed up for a provincially funded graduate research internship program called ACCELERATE BC, which connects promising research talent with local companies for short-term projects.
The program evolved out of another research network known as MITACS. It was expanded in February and infused with $10 million from the Ministry of Advanced Education. Over the next four years, ACCELERATE BC will fund 650 internships.
Scott Beatty is one of more than 100 students participating in the ACCELERATE program this year, and has helped design, build and improve SyncWave’s resonator.
Beatty, who is currently completing his Masters of Engineering at UVIC, explained how the technology works:
“You have two floating bodies on the surface of the ocean — they’re really large bodies — and our concept is that if you shape those… bodies properly, you set their masses properly, they’re going to move opposite to each other,” Beatty explained.