A finalist of the 2014 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, Dutch technology provider Bluerise has developed cutting edge energy technology to harness the ocean’s power. Their Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a renewable energy technology that uses the natural temperature difference in oceans to produce clean, reliable electricity, day and night, all year-round. It can become a substantial part of the future sustainable energy mix. We talked to Diego Acevedo about Bluerise’s commercial rollout and their first projects in the Caribbean.

Can you update us on how Bluerise is doing at the moment?
“We are doing quite well. We are expanding our team. We now have offices in Delft, the Netherlands, Aruba, and Jamaica, and we have some people in Curacao as well. The projects that we are developing generate a lot of traction. We are also working on a new project in Jamaica, similar to the development in Curacao that we presented as a finalist of the Green Challenge, a seawater district cooling system.

We closed 2017 with a very successful crowdfunding campaign, which exceeded all our expectations. We managed to attract over 200% overfunding. It has given us a boost of energy, even beyond the financial side of things. For example, the amount of investors that participated in the crowdfunding campaign and the overall reception that it had, gave us the confidence that we are moving in the right direction. The participants were mainly private individuals and mainly Dutch.”  

What do you think people find most interesting in Bluerise?
“Many associate ocean energy with wave and tidal technology. What we’re working on has an even bigger potential than wave and tidal. It is a tropical energy solution that is available day and night and is a perfect compliment to wind and solar. Half of the world’s population lives in tropical regions, where the energy demand is still rising and people often still rely on fossil fuels for their energy needs. Our underwater systems produce clean, stable, and efficient ocean thermal energy that can easily and invisibly be integrated into the electricity grid.

I think there are different reasons for people to support our idea. Some of them look at the potential for the business, of course, that is ultimately what drives people to invest. But also the fact that we are working on a large-scale renewable energy solution necessary for the world. Despite the fact that the scale is large, it is graspable, and the technique is easily understandable. Covering seventy per cent of our globe, the oceans are the world's largest solar collectors. The naturally existing temperature difference between the surface and the deep sea creates an energy system big enough to power the globe!

When we started, there were only very few companies working on the same idea. Since then a few new parties have adopted a similar approach. But the real competition is yet to come as we are all operating in different locations at the moment and the market is huge. The pressure is currently on who gets it done first and right.”  

How did the participation in the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge help Bluerise to move forward?
“Becoming a finalist in the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge helped us in the sense that we gained trust in our solution. The external validation really helps. For example for the crowdfunding campaign that we did. Large projects like ours need time, with the successful outcome of our campaign we are now able to continue the development. In this period we are focused on working on the engineering and preparation phases necessary before construction is started. And we need the right people to do it. We can hire top of their field people to help us lead these projects where they need to go.

The help that we had in sharpening our proposition was great. Sometimes I jokingly think: it would have been better to participate last year, or this year, since now all finalists get awarded prize money. But the different mentors, the people that worked with us, were genuinely interested in helping us. The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge helps to encourage people to work on solutions that matter and to push things forward. That is important for the world.”

What are your goals for 2018? 
“For the near future, we want to bring our current projects to the next phase of detailed engineering and finalizing the project finance. We have hired key team members that are helping us reach the next stage in our developments. For instance, we now have a new engineer in Jamaica. She is overseeing the development locally in preparation for the contracting and construction phases.

Every company that works on hardware-based solutions must be prepared for the long haul. Thankfully, we have been able to continue our mission. We are determined to create an energy breakthrough. In roughly two years from now the first commercial Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion plant will be available, and we know that as soon as that happens, there will be a big change.”