It’s been done already often enough. Harnessing the power of the sea to generate energy. Yet these mainly concern tidal power stations. Where there is also the risk that they may have a negative impact on marine life. The German startup Sinn Power has come up with a totally new concept. Their mobile installation harnesses the power of the waves in order to generate energy. From a distance, the power station is about the same size as a ship. The system also protects the marine environment and its inhabitants. There is even a ‘by-product’ in the form of a generator for small wind turbines. No wonder that the young company has already won numerous awards.
Innovation Origins spoke to Dr. Philipp Sinn, founder and CEO of Sinn Power GmbH.
How did you come up with the idea of Sinn Power?
I’m an experienced sailor. That’s when you get to appreciate the power of waves. My PhD research eventually led me to set up this company. I worked long and hard on various technologies for generating sustainable electricity from the power of waves.
What distinguishes Sinn Power from other products?
Sinn Power’s wave power technology is based on one simple principle. Namely modularity and scalability. As a result of these principles, a degree of flexibility has been created that competitors have not yet been able to achieve. The Sinn Power wave power plant is made up of a cluster of several modules. Each module is the same. They are linked by a rigid structure and the whole system floats on the sea. A wave power plant can be adapted to the requirements of the customer and to the location thanks to this modular principle. There are also no adverse effects on marine life. Nor are there any visual restrictions. From a distance of a few hundred meters, the wave power station looks like a boat on the sea.
What obstacles needed to be overcome at the outset?
All starts are difficult. Technologies of this nature require a long period of research and development. And, of course, a specific budget. But we have been able to cut down on a lot of costs thanks to our approach. The modular concept greatly simplifies transportation, including to remote coasts. All components are actually optimized for ISO containers.
What are you especially proud of?
We recently won first prize at the Cleantech Open Global Ideas Challenge. This is an international competition from the Cleantech network “Cleantech Open”. We were invited as one of the three German winners to the CTO Global Forum in Los Angeles thanks to our nomination for the StartGreen Awards. These competitions and networks are a tremendous impetus, especially when it comes to those networks. We are also very proud that our research project at the Heraklion port in Greece is supported by the BMWi (the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy). Subsidies such as these underline once again the enormous ecological and economic potential of our technology.
We were able to test a full-scale module for the first time at our research site in Heraklion. We learned a lot from that. Subsequently the commercial application of our wave power plant is one step closer. Another important example is our Power Train. That is the generator and the core of our technology. We developed it ourselves since there was nothing on the market that could meet the needs of our power station. We now have a generator -the PowerTrain 3.4- that has a CE-certificate.
As of mid-year this year, Sinn Power has been supplying this generator to small wind turbine manufacturers. It is a perfect generator for wind turbines with a maximum capacity of up to 3 kilowatts. This type of turbine can be operated at lower costs thanks to the integrated electronics. We have opened up new markets this way with a high-tech product that we have developed ourselves.
Where will Sinn Power be in the short and long term?
As of 2020, we will be introducing the new version of the generator: the PowerTrain 4.0. This has an even greater nominal power. It can be extended in a modular way as needed. This will become the leading solution for complex off-grid, smart-grid and hybrid applications.
Soon, Sinn Power will be able to provide the world’s coastal populations with sustainable and reliable energy generated from the power of waves. We are presently preparing for a pilot project whereby the Sinn Power wave power plant will be tested and optimized over an extended period of time before it is launched on the market. During the long and intensive research phase, we were able to establish that some products are not yet suited to a marine environment. Like our generator units, for example. We are able to develop these products ourselves via flexible engineering. We are entering new markets here as well. With the Sinn PowerTrain, we offer a compact generator that is waterproof to the IP68 standard for power stations with a limited power output of 1 to 10 kW.
Manufacturers of small wind turbines in particular are already benefiting from this. We will be able to offer a comprehensive smart-grid system this summer. This is another area where we have something unique. Our generators and our electronic control circuits can be used in numerous ways. They can be expanded in a modular way and combined with other systems. They can definitely be connected to other energy systems without any problems. Our medium-term goal is to offer this as an integral part of our product range.We can build generators in greater numbers that way, so that we can also offer wave power plant customers the best product at the right price.
What tips do you have for other starters?
Don’t just dream, but do it! With all the consequences that might entail. With commitment and conviction. That is what I realized at a certain point in time. Since then, I’ve been making progress, without stress but with a lot of pleasure and success. Both professionally and privately. That way you also manage to attract people around you who think and act in the same way. That’s how you expand your own identity.