The award-winning European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) - the only facility of its kind in the world – has a truly global market in testing and verifying wave and tidal energy converters.
It is here in Orkney that full-scale prototype marine energy devices are independently tested in real life situations. For what EMEC helps developers do is transform renewable energy prototypes into commercially-viable income generating technology.
Since it opened its wave test site in 2004, EMEC has quickly emerged as a key player in Scotland's energetic push to be at the forefront in the evolution of marine technology.
The developments at EMEC have generated worldwide interest, and the centre regualrly hosts international delegations from countries with an interest in marine energy development. Its work has also earned EMEC a number of top industry awards, including the 2007 Green Energy Award for Best Renewable Innovation.
In September 2007, First Minister Alex Salmond officially opened the tidal test site where Dublin-based OpenHydro is testing its tidal turbine. Ten years in development, this is the UK's first grid-connected tidal turbine. The company's Open-Centre Turbine generates electricity from tidal currents and is connnected to a seabed cable at the Fall of Warness off the island of Eday. In summer 2010 OpenHydro was joined by Tidal Generation and Atlantis with their tidal energy converters at the Fall of Warness site. They will be joined by Voith Hydro Ocean Current Technologies and Hammerfrest Strom in the summer of 2011, bringing the total number of tidal devices on test up to five.
Orkney was chosen as the location for the European Marine Energy Centre for a number of reasons, including its energy profile, access to harbour facilities and grid connection, and the wide range of supporting businesses located close by.
EMEC is centred around three sites on Orkney: a small, partially underground building at Billia Croo on Orkney's Atlantic coastline which houses switchgear and other control equipment for the wave test bed facilities off the coast in that area; the EMEC offices and data centre situated in the Old Academy in Stromness; and the tidal device testing area off the Island of Eday.
At the deepwater test facility off Billia Croo, five cables run offshore to deepwater berths, and there is one nearshore berth connected by a pipeline to the shore. This berth is currently occupied by Aquamarine Power with their oyster device. At Eday, seven cables run to berthing points at different water depths. Both sites have a combination of wave rider buoys and acoustic doppler current profilers for monitoring the available renewable resource and both have SCADA and communication links back to the Stromness office.
It is at Billia Croo that Edinburgh-based Ocean Power Delivery, now known as Pelamis Wave Power Ltd, tested its Pelamis wave energy converter, where it first started producing power for the National Grid. This was the world's first ever trial of a grid-connected machine capable of turning energy from offshore waves into electricity at commercially-viable levels. Their second generation device is on site and due to begin testing in Autumn 2010 in a joint project with the energy utility E-on.
Currently at the Centre is: Aquamarine Power, testing its Oyster wave device; E-on deploying a Pelamis P2 device; Atlantis, testing its Ak-1000 device; Hammerfest Strom UK Ltd and Tidal Generation Ltd are both undertaking preparatory work at the tidal site for deployment of their devices. For the latest activity at the wave and tidal sites, visit EMEC.