Following its successful testing of the world’s first commercial-scale portable wind turbine for ships, Cork company Dare Technology is set to make waves in the marine industry.
Earlier in the summer, the prototype of the 5kw turbine, which can be used to generate electricity when a ship is stationary, provided power for the Irish Naval Service ship, the LÉ Aisling, during a test.
Dare has now embarked on a funding round with the view to launching on the market at the end of next year.
Identified by Enterprise Ireland as a High Potential Start-Up, the company aims to employ a staff of five by 2017.
Company founder Darren Hayes has ambitious plans for the turbine, called the HI-Gen which is the result of 18 months of development.
“It provides clean, free electricity when a ship is at anchor or in port — the key advantages are that it reduces both fuel costs and emissions,’’ he said.
The 5kw turbine can be used by small vessels like fishing trawlers and the company is now working on a more powerful 15kw version for larger vessels.
“Within five years we are aiming to see Hi-GENs becoming an essential piece of equipment on all commercial vessels in ports across Europe,” Mr Hayes said.
An engineer who has worked in the renewable energy sector for over eight years, Mr Hayes experienced at first hand the difficulties of fuel wastage at sea while working for a marine renewable energy company.
“Having the generator running on a ship while you are waiting around for the wind to subside is wasteful,” he said.
While studying for a masters at UCC two years ago, it came to him that a portable wind turbine would be a solution to this wastage.
It also occurred to him that he could use a ship’s crane boom as the turbine’s tower, something no one had done before.
Prior to this, small turbines had been created for sailing boats but none had the capacity for commercial use.
Putting a turbine high up on the boom was a way of making it larger while making it portable and capable of being put up and taken down in minutes, was a way of making it work, according to Mr Hayes, who explained that a permanent turbine would interfere with the running of a ship.
This idea allowed him to combine his practical experience with the theory he was studying.
It won him the 2014 UCC Entrepreneur of the Year award and subsequently got him a place in the national finals of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur Awards.
To take the project to the next level, Mr Hayes recruited design engineer, Patrick Grehan and chartered accountant Martin Carr as directors of Dare Technology which was registered in January 2015.
The team began developing the prototype and filed a patent application in July of last year.
By August, Dare had secured €50,000 in competitive start funding from Enterprise Ireland and became one of the first tenants at the IMERC marine energy incubator in Ringaskiddy.
“Testing the prototype on LÉ Aisling in May and proving the concept has been a huge step — now we are working on commercialising the development of the 5kw turbine which we plan to enter the market with,’’ said Mr Hayes, adding that the plan initially is to source the components and have the Hi–GEN assembled by a Cork company.
Since Mr Hayes began work on the project, the price of diesel has dropped dramatically.
“Prices have fallen by 75% which makes it harder to sell in the current market,” he said. “In the long-term, given that diesel is a finite fuel reserve, prices are likely to come back up but in the meantime Dare is adapting its strategy to the existing market.
“The key selling point is that the Hi-GEN will pay for itself in two to three years,” he said, adding that it also reduces operating costs for diesel generators and reduces emissions.
“Our turbine has the potential to save in excess of one million tonnes of CO2 per annum globally.”
For Dare, the Hi-GEN is just the just the beginning. Long-term, the aim is to develop a range of renewable energy technologies which “will fill the gap between what is being done and what is possible”.