Editors Note: COP fellows had the opportunity to visit numerous pavilions sponsored by individual countries which highlighted their unique commitments to addressing climate change. While most countries showcased goals and projects related to energy efficiency and renewable energy, some countries discussed other technological solutions. The following blog discusses one such technological solution to mitigating climate change and its impacts on marine ecosystems.
CCell – One Innovation Among Many @COP24 – Sophie MacDonald
CCell – One Innovation Among Many @COP24
Sophie MacDonald – Junior, B.S. Mechanical Engineering
Technology alone is not going to stop climate change. The success of any large-scale movement is contingent on backing from the hearts and minds of the people it is affecting. In the case of climate change, this essentially means that everyone across the globe, or at least those people with direct access to policy (who in turn are backed by constituents… so really, it needs to be everyone) needs to be convinced of the importance of environmental stewardship and of using sustainable technology in the first place.
All of this in mind, the tech industry meanwhile is doing some pretty incredible things. One especially promising technology featured at the United Kingdom pavilion at COP24 is that of CCell, a device that harnesses wave energy in order to ultimately generate electricity and grow coral reefs to protect coastal areas and maintain marine biodiversity. The system consists of just a few key components, making the technology comparatively cheap, and the basic process is as follows:
- A carbon fiber shell floats at wave height and harnesses the motion-based energy of waves.
- This mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy inside a compact element featuring a hydraulic piston as the driving mechanism (I do not fully understand how this works, but it sounds very cool!)
- Electrical energy is used for electrolysis (current-driven chemical reaction) in order to create a layer of limestone over a steel structure – any steel structure, you could throw a bike in the ocean and hook this device up – that has been placed underwater
- This limestone attracts marine wildlife, and coral reefs in particular grow 2-5 times as quickly and are allegedly 20 times more resilient than a typical reef on this newly formed rock
- The excess electricity not used in the electrolysis process (which requires just a low, safe voltage) may be returned to shore for use on land
The last item on the list is a goal for the immediate future of the device, but the conversion of wave energy to coral reefs has been tested and implemented with success.
Like all novel technologies, it is important to take all of the above information with a healthy dose of skepticism, and I was initially tempted to chalk this technology up to a flashy sideshow with no real application. After talking with an engineer on the project, though, and doing plenty of individual research, I am quite hopeful for this project’s future.
First, the technology they are employing for limestone creation is not new; it is backed by 30 years of research, refinement, and implementation, and is a patented process under a company called BioRock. CCell’s addition to this process is that of off-shore harnessing of wave energy to produce the necessary electricity, and the two technologies work in tandem better than they ever could separately. CCell provides BioRock with electricity on the open ocean, enabling BioRock to have a wider range of applicability, and BioRock gives CCell a secure place to ground their device.
CCell technology seems to be about as invasive as a large buoy. It is also quite robust and degrades minimally over time, so concerns about harm to marine life appear to be mitigable. Looking at CCell’s twitter page, they also seem to really care about environmental stewardship, and as a start-up company in renewable energy, are definitely not in it solely for the money.
Overall, this technology seems to have a lot of potential on a small scale, and specifically has promise as an energy source and means of coastal protection for smaller island communities. These communities are going to be the most affected by climate change – despite typically contributing minimally to its causes – due to sea level rise, so I have high hopes for CCell. While it will definitely never remotely reach the scale necessary to prevent global warming on its own, my guess is that in the small number of places it reaches, it will have a real, positive impact.
For more information, go to http://www.globalcoral.org/ccell-energy-save-coral/ or refer directly to CCell’s website and social media.