Openarc Marine is developing a new approach to onboard generators for use when cruising under sail. Its new hydroelectric technology could have worldwide applications and help to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation at sea.

According to marine director, Mark Basham, prototype development is now under way, having proven the generator’s concept through pilot testing. Sea trials off Falmouth are scheduled for Spring 2022 and the product expected to launch in 2023.

Openarc Marine set out to overcome a number of key drawbacks with conventional systems that couple the turbine directly to the generator, making them drag sensitive and limited in range and output. The Openarc system has an intelligent coupling system able to control drag and open up a wider range of operation with higher energy yields.

“Our innovative system introduces a completely novel approach to hydro generation, where optimisation of energy conversion efficiency has been reduced in favour of controllability,” says Openarc Marine director, Jim Shields. “This has then been augmented by the use of a highly sophisticated control mechanism. This means that the new system can generate electricity at very low speeds, when other generators cannot. Because the amount of drag can be controlled, the user can choose to sacrifice speed to generate more electricity if they wish. This degree of control makes our product unique in the marketplace, creating a significant step forward for our industry.”

Based in Cornwall, Openarc Marine is focused on developing smart marine energy systems. It develops technologies which reduce and eliminate dependence on diesel and petrol fuelled electric generators, control energy collection and consumption, and harvest free energy from the sea.

Openarc Marine’s work has been supported by Marine-i which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Marine-i is designed to help the marine technology sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly grow through harnessing the full potential of research and innovation. Thus, Openarc Marine engaged with Marine-i to get support in developing an operational prototype of the new system, including the build of a full size turbine.

Prof Lars Johanning, programme director for Marine-i, says: “This is a really exciting innovation from Openarc Marine, which will have global applications in the leisure sailing industry. This project has the potential to make Openarc Marine a world leader with its pioneering approach to hydroelectric generation.”