SeaQurrent ready for new milestone
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SeaQurrent ready for new milestone

For several years, SeaQurrent has been working on an underwater kite that generates energy from tidal currents. With success, it seems. Soon the North Dutch startup, with support from NOM, FOM and others, will install a full-scale system near Ameland.

Actually, it is a very logical way to generate energy. And in the near future, like the production of electricity from sun and wind, undoubtedly even the most normal thing in the world. 'But one party has to be the first to do it too,' smiles Youri Wentzel. 'And yes, that's us.'

Youri is CEO of SeaQurrent, which is developing an underwater kite that generates renewable energy from tidal currents. Or more precisely, from the currents in the Wadden Sea created by the difference in height between ebb and flood. Of course, tidal energy can also be generated by using turbines. 'But then you need fast-flowing water,' Youri explains. 'On our earth there are only a few places available for that. Moreover, turbines are often too large to harvest energy in relatively shallow water, where there is more current.'


The TidalKite is the name of SeaQurrent's underwater kite. The kite, which consists of several wings suspended in a frame, moves from right to left transverse to the current. Underwater, the kite is connected to the so-called Power Take Off (PTO), a unit composed of a hydraulic cylinder and a combination of a hydraulic motor and a generator. The pulling force pulls out the hydraulic cylinder, which successively drives the hydraulic motor and the generator. The green power generated is carried to the mainland by a power cable.

Youri, who worked in the oil and gas industry for many years, is an avid sea sailor. While sailing on the Wadden Sea in 2012, the seed was sown for the TidalKite. 'You notice that your boat is constantly being pushed somewhere by the current,' he says. 'There is so much energy in that constantly flowing water. Why don't we do more with those forces of ebb and flow?", I wondered. After a period of thought and study, I came up with the idea of an underwater kite in 2014. A year later, I decided to go full steam ahead.'

Successful testing

At an early stage, SeaQurrent sought cooperation with the University of Groningen. Primarily to have the forces in the various components of the TidalKite examined in detail. Based on the insights and adjustments obtained, the system was then tested at scale and at different current speeds. First at Marin, the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands in Wageningen, followed by a number of successful pilots in the Wadden Sea.'

'We now know very well how to properly convert the energy from ebb and flow currents into clean electricity,' argues Youri. 'But although the principle of the underwater kite is relatively simple, building it is a time-consuming and complex process. Simply because there are no standard parts available for such an installation. That means we develop and make almost everything ourselves. So at its core, SeaQurrent is really an engineering firm, an assembly company and a test organization all in one.'


Entrepreneurship is perseverance, overcoming obstacles and making choices, Youri knows. 'Things always turn out differently than you think beforehand. You shouldn't get frustrated by that, but see it as an opportunity to further develop yourself and the company. You have to keep believing in your idea under all circumstances and radiate that. It is a matter of a long breath.

In particular, the test at Marin and the granting of the first patent were, in his own words, milestones in SeaQurrent's development. That patent was established by Youri right from the start. 'Despite the fact that you don't profit directly from that in the initial phase, it has brought us a lot,' he emphasizes. 'Also because it gives investors extra security. Not unimportant, after all we are talking about serious amounts of money.'

Great export potential

Indeed, in addition to a lot of time, building the TidalKite requires quite a bit of money. For initial investments, the company managed to bring several angel investors on board. Now that SeaQurrent is working toward a demonstration of the fourth model of the underwater kite near Ameland, it was also looking for opportunities with professional investors. Preferably a combination of public and private investors. 'That was successful,' says Youri. 'For example, we were recently allowed to welcome EIT InnoEnergy, PMH Investments, Invest-NL, the FOM and the NOM as shareholders. It enables us to further optimize our distinctive technology and bring the TidalKite to the market at an accelerated pace.'

For NOM and FOM, SeaQurrent's innovation fits seamlessly with the objectives of both organizations. Because of its sustainable character and contribution to employment in Friesland, but also because the company meets a global need and thus has great export potential. Moreover, it fits perfectly into the energy cluster in the Northern Netherlands.

True scale

Currently, as mentioned, SeaQurrent is preparing for a test project near Ameland. For example, a full-scale system is being installed in the Borndiep, a sea channel between Ameland and Terschelling, to provide green power to the island. 'After that, we want to slowly scale up to the other Wadden Islands and other areas of the world where running water is present,' Youri explains. 'Everything indicates that by installing several underwater kites we will soon be able to generate about 70% of the Wadden Islands' energy consumption.

Of course, tidal energy is part of the energy mix. Or rather, a welcome and sustainable addition. Because unlike sun and wind, the energy generated by the TidalKites is predictable, reliable and available 24 hours a day. 'Those sea currents continue day and night, regardless of the time of year,' Youri emphasizes. 'Moreover, the system is located underwater, so it has no visual impact whatsoever. It has, in short, everything it needs to eventually provide green power to millions of people.'

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