Wave power enters a new era

Scotland enjoys a significant share of Europe’s renewable energy resources. In recent years, much of the focus – good and bad – has been on wind power. However, there are signs of a change of emphasis, with growing encouragement from both Westminster and Holyrood for the various marine power technologies.

The latest confirmation of this comes with the UK government’s decision to fund a £20 million prize to encourage the country’s first full-scale wave energy projects. With an estimated half of all the world’s leading companies in wave and tidal power based here, it is an incentive to help those companies make the technology commercially viable.

The prize will be shared by two marine energy projects under what is known as the Marine Energy Array Demonstrator scheme (MEAD). Launching the competition, the energy and climate change minister, Greg Barker, said it would “help move marine power to the next stage of development, the demonstration of a number of wave and tidal devices in array formation out at sea. This will take us one vital step closer to realising our ambitions of generating electricity from the waves and tides.”

The firms expected to enter the fray include AWS Ocean Energy, now based in Inverness, which is planning the world’s largest wave farm off the coast of Orkney. Another Scottish company, Pelamis Wave Power, based in Leith, is already testing its sea snake wave machine off Orkney and has recently announced plans for a wave farm off the west coast of Shetland and another off the Western Isles.

To win this government money, the projects will have to deploy an array capable of generating at least 7 GWh a year, preferably more, and should include three generating devices. According to RenewableUK, an “array” is an arrangement of multiple wave and/or tidal power devices, analogous to multiple wind turbines arranged into a wind farm. The technology should also have been already demonstrated to work at full scale in real sea conditions.

The wave and tidal development manager at RenewableUK, David Krohn, said that “the marine energy industry has the potential to allow us to generate clean electricity equivalent to up to 20 per cent of our needs using the inexhaustible power of the sea. The MEAD scheme will provide enough funding to deliver two arrays, which will help kick-start the industry, and we welcome it.

“However, it’s important to recognise that this is only the beginning of the road to building marine energy into a fully commercial industry. Our research shows that £120m of capital support is required to overcome barriers to commercial development and unlock our share of this global industry. We look forward to the opportunities that the Green Investment Bank can provide to help drive the industry forwards.”

Curiously, the recent decision by the Scottish government to approve the Viking wind farm in Shetland will benefit wave power as well. The Aegir Wave Power scheme, a joint venture between the Swedish energy firm Vattenfall and Pelamis Wave Power, can only go ahead if an interconnector is constructed between Shetland and the mainland. That is also essential for the Viking wind farm, and the latest decision over the wind farm significantly increases the likelihood that an interconnector will be installed.

“This is fantastic news for the future development of our 10MW Aegir Wave Farm,” said Andrew Scott, development manager for the Aegir project, “and a big step forward to securing grid connection for marine projects in Shetland. Shetland and its communities are blessed with a huge marine renewable resource and we are working towards harnessing some of this energy to create a new exciting industry exporting clean power.”

There is now a series of key target dates for marine energy in Scotland. The first date comes later this year when the UK government announces details of a second marine energy park, which is likely to be based in Scotland. This will be in addition to the existing park off the south-west of England, which brings together university researchers and private companies.

Then, in 2014, a Pelamis Wave Power machine should undergo full-scale tests at the European Marine Energy Centre on Orkney. At the same time, the Aegir Wave Power Scheme will start work on environmental and other site assessments, before submitting a planning application to Marine Scotland, again in 2014.

Winning bids for the MEAD prize should be announced towards the end of this year, with the final projects up and running by 31 March 2016 at the latest.

  • weewilliebee

    I would like to believe that wave power is the future for electricity generation but I do not.  That electricity can be produced that way there is no doubt but at what cost?  Does the cost matter?  Well yes or we cannot afford to use it so it ceases to be a benefit if it is not cheaply available.
    The problem lies in the intensity of the wave energy.  It cannot be greater than represented by the height of the waves, a matter of a few metres at most.  Although there is a massive total energy in the waves over a whole sea what is important is the energy that reaches any particular machine.
    To collect large amounts of energy requires any machine to present itself to a large amount of waves, either along the length as in Palamis or the Oyster with a large plate arrangement.
    Inevitably this machine will be costly in materials not to mention the high cost of maintenance in a very hostile environment.  This impacts on the cost of electricity produced.
    I have seen no figures for power output related to cost that brings me to the conclusion that the experimenters have managed to overcome the laws of physics and promise cheap , green everlasting electricity for the future, but by all means keep on trying.
    If carbon free electricity in large quantities is wanted that is affordable, safe and reliable then there has to be a place for new generation nuclear stations in the future, like them or not.

    • David Calder

      Personally I agree though the projects themselves struck me as interesting. If we are going to get the Scottish Government away from its rigid anti-nuclear stance, we neec to educate them about alternatives to the traditional nuclear fuels, especially Thorium

      • lapogus

        David – good to hear you are aware of thorium. (Christ do we need some informed science and technology reporters in Scotland – and London as well.   These wind, wave and tidal projects are a very expensive distraction – renewables are fine for small islands, and off-grid locations, but engineering and economic folly if you try to use them to keep the lights on in even a post industrial country.  The reality is that peak demand in Scotland is 5-6GW, and the UK needs 60GW at peak demand. In winter cold spells, the 6GW of windfarms in the UK regularly produce less than 100MW – http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/~dcurtis/NETA.html .   Even very long strings of these wave devices will generate a very small fraction of what’s needed, and in any case they will likely be smashed to pieces on the rocks sooner rather than later.  Offshore wind will also prove to be a very expensive way to make electricity, with high failure rates due to vibration and salt spray, very high maintenance costs, and that’s before the problems of actually constructing them is factored in, e.g. http://www.no-tiree-array.org .  Scotland can possibly manage without nuclear, but only if we build new coal and gas stations, and stop wasting money on this renewable madness.   The proposed new ‘supergrid’ connectors to Iceland and Norway will also be extremely expensive, and only bring in 750MW and 1MW respectively (assuming that the Norwegians have some stored water to generate when we need it, and they don’t want to sell it to the Danes and Germans first).

        If you are up to speed on thorium, have you looked into what Prof Rossi and some NASA scientists have quietly been achieving with LENR?  This is the holy grail and will change everything, but apart from Wired, no-one in the mainstream media is touching it.  Very odd, considering that NASA also have some folk working on it, and they too appear to be getting more energy out than they put in. 

        http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-02/27/rossi-roundup

        http://technologygateway.nasa.gov/media/CC/lenr/lenr.html

        http://joe.zawodny.com/index.php/2012/01/14/technology-gateway-video/

  • cosma vasile

    Did you know that Romania has a technical solution with the highest efficiency to capture wave power?.
    Patent 108893 entitled Dynamic Engine for Sea Wave Energy Catching. A pioneering invention. It is estimated that “dynamic engine” has the ability to catching wave energy at a rate of over 80% while the other technical solutions known worldwide, are not able to capture wave energy with a higher percentage of about 10-15%.
    Cosma Vasile Romania.
    E-mail [email protected]

    Some information for patent “Dynamic Engine” can be found on:
    – Ocean energy: Wave energy | Climate TechWiki
    – “First Wave Energy Device Connected to Power Grid | Science”

    Link for patent “Dynamic Engine”
    http://bd.osim.ro/pdf/108000-/108800-/108893.pdf

  • cosma vasile

    Did you know that Romania has a technical solution with the highest efficiency to capture wave power?.
    Patent 108893 entitled Dynamic Engine for Sea Wave Energy Catching. A pioneering invention. It is estimated that “dynamic engine” has the ability to catching wave energy at a rate of over 80% while the other technical solutions known worldwide, are not able to capture wave energy with a higher percentage of about 10-15%.
    Cosma Vasile Romania.
    E-mail [email protected]

    Some information for patent “Dynamic Engine” can be found on:
    – Ocean energy: Wave energy | Climate TechWiki
    – “First Wave Energy Device Connected to Power Grid | Science”

    Link for patent “Dynamic Engine”
    http://bd.osim.ro/pdf/108000-/108800-/108893.pdf

  • cosma vasile

    Did you know that Romania has a technical solution with the highest efficiency to capture wave power?.
    Patent 108893 entitled Dynamic Engine for Sea Wave Energy Catching. A pioneering invention. It is estimated that “dynamic engine” has the ability to catching wave energy at a rate of over 80% while the other technical solutions known worldwide, are not able to capture wave energy with a higher percentage of about 10-15%.
    Cosma Vasile Romania.
    E-mail [email protected]

    Some information for patent “Dynamic Engine” can be found on:
    – Ocean energy: Wave energy | Climate TechWiki
    – “First Wave Energy Device Connected to Power Grid | Science”

    Link for patent “Dynamic Engine”
    http://bd.osim.ro/pdf/108000-/108800-/108893.pdf