Making Waves: Renewable Energy
With approximately 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface covered in water, the predictable and consistent electricity-generating potential of the oceans remains a largely untapped resource.
In this episode of Create the Future, we speak to Sam Etherington, the engineer and entrepreneur behind Aqua Power Technologies Limited’s innovative wave energy generators.
Inspired by the wingspan of a manta ray, Sam’s new four-metre tall submersible, MANTA, is currently being put to use in offshore fish-farms and aquaculture. Unlike expensive and polluting diesel generators, these devices work instead by simply harnessing the rise and fall of ocean waves.
We explore Sam’s entrepreneurial journey from design and development to manufacturing, unpack how kitesurfing – or more specifically, being buffeted off the board – inspired his work, and learn about the search for simplicity in commercial product design.
About the Guest
Sam Etherington is a pioneering British industrial engineer working in the marine energy sector.
From a family of engineers, Etherington obtained a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Brunel University. He graduated in 2013 – with his thesis project resulting in a national James Dyson Award. One year later, at the age of 24, became the youngest engineer to enter SEMTA’s engineering hall of fame, joining Isambard Kingdom Brunel, George Stephenson and Sir Frank Whittle. At the same time, Sam founded his company, Aqua Power Technologies Limited, which continues to engineer cost-effective and efficient ways to harvest wave energy for commercial use.
- “I like to do things, see how it works. If it fails, learn and do it again. That's my approach.”
- “We have to the commercial machine and near enough 90% of it is made in house now, which was really key to speeding up the rate of learning and the rate of innovation […] It forced us to be ruthless in our pursuit of simplicity.”
- “I spend a lot of time really honing in on what that customer wants, because there's a higher chance that they'll actually want to buy it when you’ve developed it.”
- “If you can capture every motion from every direction, then not only do you protect the structure itself, but you're effectively being more efficient at capturing the ocean waves and converting that into electricity.”
- “You're competing against offshore wind, which is really running away with it in terms of the cost of renewable energy offshore. So, there's a heck of a lot against you.”