Blue Renewable Energy to Restore Coral Reefs, Indonesia

Gili Eco Trust has been replenishing and restoring damaged coral reefs in Gili Matra marine park in Lombok, Indonesia, using different restorative methods for almost 2 decades. Biorocks have shown remarkable success, enhancing coral growth and increasing reef resilience.

This project will use a uniquely designed ocean turbine to use marine currents as a renewable source of energy. A hectare of Biorock will be installed, with coral fragments attached to aid growth, recovery and ultimately replenish fish stocks and biodiversity. An underwater art gallery made from repurposed glass bottles, designed by Canadian artist Ben Von-Wong will be installed in shallower water not only to accomodate further habitat but provide a unique attraction for snorkelers and divers to boost eco-touristic activities and therefore income in the area, to experience marine life renewal in action and take an extraordinary underwater selfie.

Watch a short video that gives an overview of the project.

The Update

During this two year project, the team at Gili Eco Trust have demonstrated real resilience and perseverance to see their dream come true. They have been using biorock technology for many years which, they report, enhances coral growth up to 8 times and survival rate by 70%. This, the team believe, was the key to the survival to their reefs in the 2016 mass bleaching event, and which they predict won’t be the last mass warming event of its kind in the face of climate change. Their Biorocks use a low voltage electricity supplied from the main grid or solar panels but their mission in this project was to find a renewable ocean energy supply to power these artificial reefs sustainably, utilising marine currents to provide electricity to Biorocks, making the technology completely renewable and replicable everywhere, even in remote places. In 2020, they founded a partnership with a UK-Canadian tech startup: AquaGen (formerly known as Dynorotor) who designed an ocean turbine uniquely for Biorock technology.

After receiving a grant from EOCA, the Gili Eco Trust worked with AquaGen/Dynorotor, linking them to Prof. Eric Bibeau and Prof Tom Goreau, experts in engineering and marine biology to test the technology. Two mechanical engineers then started working with The Gili Eco Trust to work on shapes, and designs. Unfortunately costs meant that working with Ben Von Wong became prohibitive. However, welding artist and biologist Spencer Arnold at Conservation Diver was brought in and designed a seahorse and mermaid (Siren) for the shallow water reef, and a large octopus for the deeper shelf / slope area.

Following a lengthy process to get authorisation to install the project from the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, the materials were purchased for the installation. ReefCheck surveys started in July 2023 at the location of the installation and will continue every 3 months to record the impact of the installations.

Representatives of Gili Eco Trust, AquaGen/Dynorotor and Spencer Arnold, invited environmental groups, universities, local communities, all snorkelling and diving operations and government officials and marine authorities, to workshops in November 2023 to come and learn about the Blue Energy Reef. First, evening workshops were held in every partnered dive shop of Gili Trawangan. The next day, the dive shops joined with instructors, dive masters, students, volunteers and guests to install sections of the Biorock structure. The GIDA dive teams constructed and sunk the large octopus head and legs in 10 days. Tests were carried out to ensure that the cables and connections were protected from damage from the sea water. The workshop presented the project to the attendees, demonstrated how the turbine worked, and was timed to take place during the construction of the octopus outside of the meeting room on the nearby beach. Shortly after, the octopus was completed and put into place, as were the seahorse and siren.

In the month following the installation, regular monitoring dives have taken place, and many dive professions have helped attach coral to the new Blue Energy Reef. Already, by the end of 1 month, many fish can be seen around the structures in a previously barren and destroyed area.

Coming soon…. Will be a video of the process.