Artificial reefs built from the sun and seawater will protect the Isle of Man

What you will learn:

  • The protective advantage of artificial reefs.
  • The electrolysis technology used to build the reef.
  • What will power the reef formation system?
  • How the control systems will generate data to create a “digital” reef.

The first-ever deep-water marina planned for the Irish Sea will be protected from wave damage by an artificial reef built in situ. It will take advantage of an electrolytic process that creates a coral-like substrate from minerals abundantly available in seawater.

The project is being undertaken off Ramsey, Isle of Man, by British company Renewable cells, who developed the technology as a cost-effective way to protect fragile coastlines and encourage the growth of robust marine ecosystems. An on-site solar farm will be used to power the nine-month trial at Douglas Harbour, located just south of the proposed Ramsey Marina site. It will serve as both a marine habitat and a living barrier against coastal erosion.

These two problems, particularly coastal erosion, are a growing concern worldwide. The effects of coastal erosion are caused by stronger and more frequent storms and rising sea levels, which many scientists believe are mainly due to climate change.

This test of the technology in colder waters off the British Isles follows an 18-month trial in the Yucatan village of Telchac in the Gulf of Mexico, where CCell successfully deployed a 120-metre artificial reef long. (see video below). Despite its limestone lining still in progress, the structures are already demonstrating their ocean-calming abilities at a cost of £1,000/m, compared to the £2,000-£5,000 cost of a Breeze – concrete blades with shorter life.

Sun rock and sea water

As reported by Electronic design in January 2020, CCell’s reef building system (originally developed by BioRock technology) uses electrolysis of seawater to extract calcium carbonate (limestone) and deposit it on large steel frames that serve as formwork to give the new reef its initial structure. Through careful control of the power waveform applied to the frames, the process causes the rock to grow about 2.5 cm (1 in) per year. At this rate, it only takes five years to build the substrate, rather than the hundreds of years it would take to form naturally.

As with CCell’s previous project in the Gulf of Mexico, the port’s reef-forming system will be powered by renewable energy, in this case an onshore solar power plant. But renewable sources such as solar, wind and wave power generation tend to have widely varying outputs which, if left unmanaged, will impact the efficiency of the electrolysis process.

To overcome this problem, CCell has partnered with Vicaran energy technology company, to create an electricity distribution network that could use the highly variable outputs to produce the highly regulated electricity needed to achieve optimal limestone growth.

This requires the power system to control the voltage potential between the electrodes in a narrow “golden loop region” of 1.2 to 4 V to drive a precisely calculated current through seawater. Vicor has worked with CCell to apply its Factorized power architecture (FPA) to the task. The FPA breaks down or “factors” the DC-DC function into two modules: a separate Pre-Regulator Module (PRM) buck-boost regulator that feeds a well-controlled intermediate bus voltage to one or more load points (PoL conversion devices ).

For the Isle of Man project, CCell will use a variation of the original power system it developed in Mexico. The output of the solar power plant feeds a voltage transformer module (VTM) current multiplier, which is a high current density fixed ratio (unregulated) resonant converter. Working in a tightly integrated manner, the PRM tightly regulates the voltage required for the reef and the VTM manages the downconversion and current delivery to the electrodes.

smart reefs

In addition to stimulating reef growth, the project will collect status information and performance data generated by the system’s control systems and transmit it to a wireless internet connection, creating what CCell calls a “digital reef.” . By connecting the reefs to the Internet of Things (IoT), the company will be able to observe the marine environment and carry out regular measurements from its London office.

Dr. Will Bateman, Founder and CEO of CCell, said: “Our reef technology, a ‘digital pluggable living reef’, will provide the marina with natural erosion protection and at the same time improve the quality of the ecosystem. local sailor. It’s great to be involved in a major project in UK and European waters – our first – and to be part of such an exciting development which will boost the marine environment and economy of the Isle of Man.

Additional benefits

CCell’s reef structures will be placed at the base of the marina breakwater to protect its walls from erosion (scour protection). The structures were also designed to serve as a habitat for existing life and help encourage greater biodiversity. As part of its work, CCell will test the integration of used scallop shells into the reef and, in due course, used mussel shells, both by-products of the reef fishing industry. ‘island.

This short video shows how CCell’s artificial reef technology can be used to protect fragile coastlines from erosion.

Around the reefs and across Ramsey Bay, the project will also partner with the Oceans Conservation Trust in Plymouth on local seagrass regeneration efforts. Seagrasses not only help clean the water, but they are said to capture 35 times more carbon dioxide than the equivalent area of ​​terrestrial forest. Complementing the Project’s seagrass growth, the habitat created by the CCell Reef is expected to provide a significant increase in the numbers and varieties of fish living in Isle of Man waters.

The current plan is to install the first artificial reefs in 2024/25. The reef structures themselves have a theoretical lifespan of 40 years, but the living rocks and the thriving ecosystem they are meant to leave behind should live well beyond that. CCell and its partners are confident that their project will achieve these goals.

Click here to learn more about CCell’s Reef Building Technology.

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