Fred Gardner connects people with possibilities
Dutch Energy from water Association EWA likes to introduce the driving forces behind our innovations and services. This week's focus is on our veteran Fred Gardner. As a pioneer and visionary, he stood at the cradle of many sustainable solutions and companies in the maritime energy sector. He is founder and director at Teamwork Technology and associate lecturer Sustainable Energy at Inholland Alkmaar.
"Making an entire Wadden Island sustainable is simply possible. It is a great wish of mine to make that ambition come true."
Where does your pioneering spirit come from?
"My mother was a woman of infinite possibilities. I think I got it from her. As a young emigrant at 19, she went on one of those bridal flights to Australia, where I was born. By the time I was five, I had already sailed around the world twice by ship. She taught me that there is no horizon, in the sense that there is always something new behind the horizon. There are always options. From an early age, I have seen how far it takes me when I am open to the other, to other cultures. If I threaten to get stuck, I still solve it by seeking dialogue. I go to the market, meet people and learn what is going on, what the emotions are. Together you can work it out.
What are you dreaming of?
"Making an entire Wadden Island sustainable is simply possible. It is a great wish of mine to make that ambition come true. We have everything it takes to make the Netherlands more sustainable. With the Symphony, Teamwork Technology's wave energy converter, we are working on sustainable energy from our own seabed. With enough investments, we can supply all the Wadden Islands and the Dutch coast with electricity. It does take guts and common sense to invest in new technologies."
What are you working on now?
"I have a background in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and technical education. Back in 1993, I started Teamwork Technology together with Hans van Breugel. Since then, I have been developing technologies for sustainable energy. I combine my work at Teamwork Technology with my associate professorship in sustainable energy at InHolland University.
My approach as a teacher is very practical. I connect the scientific knowledge pupils need with solutions for businesses. For example, I take a group of pupils to Texel, have them identify problems, look for alternatives and calculate and test them. How do you achieve sustainable transport on the island? How do you provide more housing for young people? Not just arithmetic, but responding to the situation and the possibilities. This is how you develop the ability to solve problems together in a logical manner, and with the help of technical science."
Tell us more about the Symphony of Teamwork Technology
"We have quite a team of people working with different talents, such as researchers, dreamers and makers and everything in between. With this team we came up with an underwater system consisting of a membrane and a simple turbine. Together this forms the basis of Symphony Wave Power. With this design, energy from waves is directly converted into electricity. The Symphony is recyclable, animal-friendly and low-maintenance, and therefore "lives" under the water surface in good harmony with the sea.
These underwater systems are placed in groups of six buoys. The group of buoys is connected to an electricity box (e-box) that converts the energy into ready-to-use electricity. This can be a local power outlet for applications at sea or feeding the electricity grid by connecting several e-boxes with a cable to the shore.
With our plan, we want to supply entire regions not only with renewable energy, but also with energy that is independent of the geopolitical situation. The nice thing is that the energy price of our system is fixed for the next 30 years, because the investment and maintenance costs are known fairly precisely and the energy is free for its entire life afterwards. And that is certainly competitive with today's electricity prices."
"1 buoy of 100 kW delivers on average 25 kW. A group of around 500 buoys covers an area of about 3.5 km by 100 m, a fraction of the coast of Texel (25 km) and can provide 70 % of the electricity consumption of an island like Texel. Together with a modest solar park, you can thus supply all the necessary electricity all year round. This also takes into account that some of the energy cannot be supplied directly, but must be stored in hydrogen in summer in order to be supplied in autumn.
How do you ensure the reliability and security of your system?
"You do this by taking small development steps and testing each step. By doing this according to standardised procedures, you also give outsiders the assurance that the results are reliable. We are currently doing this in the European cooperation project ENCORE, led by Bluespring, in which the province and EU are co-funding. The basis of Symphony Wave Power began in earlier projects, such as "Wetfeet" (European project) and "Base point" (Portugal).
With the Interreg 2 Seas ENCORE project we are working on risk reduction and professionalisation of our systems. Within the project Teamwork Technology is working together with Bluespring, Bureau Veritas, lnyanga Marine Projects, University of Ghent, Artelia, DMEC and EMEC to go through the different steps of certification."
What is the next step?
"We are now preparing the system for testing at sea and demonstrating that it really works. For this purpose, all components are now being built and dry-tested in Den Helder. The aim of this demo is not only to show that our system works, but also to demonstrate the installation on the seabed and all the technical systems. This is necessary to confirm the operation in real conditions before the technology is built in large series and marketed.
Sales start of the first units is planned for 2023, as part of a subsidised scheme. We are developing coastal projects such as near Texel, but also projects in combination with a wind turbine array."
As a pioneer, what is your networking tip to other entrepreneurs?
"Remember that society is the market. So go to the location, the region and get to know each other. What is going on among the people, and can you connect with that? When I tell islanders that our system is underwater and fully recyclable, we find each other.
Build a good network locally, regionally and provincially. It is a lot more difficult with national authorities. They look more top-down and only calculate the cost price and compare this with existing technology. Whereas the real value of an invisible sustainable energy system in front of our own coast is so much more than that. Add local employment and the increase in health through clean air, and also count the geopolitical independence. Take into account the risks and costs, such as costs to dismantle and recycle a system after its useful life. You cannot do all this alone as a small company. By working together with others in network organisations such as EWA, you achieve more. Also because they put the big picture on the national and European level. After all, energy transition is and remains people work."
This interview was written by Sia Windig and made possible thanks to the Interreg 2 Seas ENCORE project, which is led by Bluespring and receives funding from the Interreg 2 Seas programme. The provinces of South and North Holland and Zeeland are also providing financial support.