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Veterans Harvesting Wave Power for Clean Energy

ENERGY: Startup’s Prototype Ready to Launch on Lake Erie

SAN DIEGO – Two San Diego veterans are developing what could be the next source of clean, renewable energy through a device that harvests the power of ocean waves, and they’re weeks away from its first test.

Bill Lyman, a former Navy SEAL who served from1994 to 2018, is CEO of Breakwave Energy, which he formed with partner Andres Hernandez, a former Marine and COO of the startup.

Andres Hernandez
COO
Breakwave Energy

Lyman has a crude prototype of the device at his North Park home, but a larger version is being built on the shore of Lake Erie and soon will be tested in the water. The Pennsylvania site was chosen because of restrictions on California’s coastline, he said.

The company is raising money through a Simple Agreement for Future Equity, or SAFE, a financial instrument created in 2013 that is popular with startups.

Investments in a SAFE do not represent a specific stake in a company until a set amount of funding is reached.

Investments in Breakwave Energy start at $100, and more information is available at tinyurl.com/bdknxh87.

A rendering of Breakwave Energy’s device shows how a wave catcher in the surf can generate energy by being driven to the shore by a wave, causing it to pull on a line that lifts a weight on shore. The falling weight then would turn a turbine, creating energy. Photo courtesy Breakwave Energy

Wave Energy from a Navy SEAL Perspective

The concept of capturing energy from waves is not novel or even new. The first known patent for capturing wave power reportedly was issued in 1799 to French mathematician and engineer Pierre-Simon Girard, and at least two patents have been issued for wave energy devices just this year.

In 2021, Oakland-based CalWave Power Technologies launched a wave-energy pilot project off of San Diego and has since been awarded U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office funding to further develop its technology, which involves floating devices anchored offshore and underwater cables leading to land.

Lyman and Hernandez say their device stands out because unlike most others, its structure is on the shore, with only a small motorless wave-catcher in the surf, and it can be quickly set in place.

“I looked at it from a Navy SEAL perspective of trying never, ever to put anything you like into the ocean,” said Lyman, who has a master’s degree in business.

Faster and less costly

Lyman said other energy converters are costly to establish and operate because they require boats, pressured machines and other infrastructure, and they all require constant maintenance because of their exposure to ocean water.

In contrast, Breakwave Energy’s device is a 20-foot tall on-shore vertical stabilizer attached to a 30-foot horizontal beam that juts over the water. A line that runs through the beam is attached to a weight transfer unit on the shore and to a wave catcher in the water at the other end.

As a wave pushes the wave catcher toward the shore, the line running through the beam pulls up the weight, which is held in place. The wave catcher then is pulled back past the surf line with its front end held up to avoid resistance from the wave, saving energy.

The weight continues to be lifted with further waves, and at some point it is dropped. The fall generates energy that turns a turbine, creating power that could be stored in a battery or fed directly into the grid.

Bringing Power Where Needed Most

Lyman and Hernandez see their first potential customers as Third World nations in need of power and with large coastlines.

“Indonesia has hundreds of remote islands where they don’t get consistent energy,” Hernandez said. “They’re very much in need for this type of solution, and they have some of the best waves in the world, so it only makes sense to look into this type of technology.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information System, waves off the coast of the United States could produce as much as 2.64 trillion kilowatt hours annually, or the equivalent of about 64% of what was generated from power plants in 2021.

Lyman said waves off of Indonesia could produce 3,000% of its energy needs, so harvesting just a fraction of the potential ocean power could be significant.

“It’s not a stretch of the imagination to say all of Indonesia’ energy needs could be gathered renewably from the ocean,” he said.

The Canary Islands, Africa and the Philippines also are likely places to use their technology, Andres said.

Academia, Military Expertise Contributed

A CSU San Marcos professor has helped with the design, and students and faculty members at Penn State Behrend and Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania worked on the prototype.

Erie County Executive Brenton Davis, a Navy and Army veteran, knew Lyman from when he trained under him to be a SEAL. When the two re-connected, Davis suggested he test their wave energy device in an open water testing facility in Lake Erie.

“Because we’re the shallowest of all the great lakes, we have more waves,” Davis said. “It also provides four seasons of testing in fresh water.”

Davis said he was impressed with the Breakwave Energy design because it can be assembled quickly, while other wave energy devices he has seen are larger, more costly and take longer to build.

“That’s kind of the genius of the idea,” he said.
A video showing how the device works can be viewed online at tinyurl.com/38v9jjd9.

Breakwave Energy
FOUNDED: 2018
CEO: Bill Lyman
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
BUSINESS: Clean energy
EMPLOYEES: 2
WEBSITE: https://breakwave.energy/
SOCIAL IMPACT: Breakwave Energy’s technology could provide renewable, affordable energy to Third World countries.
NOTABLE: The company has a prototype ready to launch at Lake Erie, Pennsylvania.

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