Five companies are driving forward high-potential renewables projects, having won the bulk of a £15 million national award ‘pot’ to boost marine generation technologies development.
Together awarded £13 million from the fund, all are active in the Highlands and Islands. Their projects exemplify the pioneering technologies fuelling the region’s momentum, and its global reputation as a ‘new energy’ hub.
They address challenges of large-scale wave power generation, inter-connection of tidal energy arrays, and building, deploying and demonstrating differing types of wave and tidal device.
The July 2010 awards were made from the WATERS fund (Wave and Tidal Energy: Research, Development and Demonstration Support), a collaboration between the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, with European funding support.
The biggest award – of £6million – will support construction of one of the world’s largest and most innovative wave projects, the 10-turbine Siadar Wave Energy Project (SWEP) on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis.
A joint project betweenRWE npower renewables and Inverness-based Voith Hydro Wavegen, SWEP comprises an "active breakwater" to harness power from the Atlantic waves in Siadar Bay, generating up to four megawatts (MW) of electricity.
The near-shore structure is planned to incorporate ‘oscillating water column’ turbine chambers.
The 4MW energy produced could supply the average annual electricity needs of some 2,500 homes - about a third of households on Lewis and Harris.
Julia Lynch-Williams, RWE npower renewables Managing Director said: “There remain a number of commercial challenges. We are currently working on issues such as a grid connection, along with securing potential suppliers but are confident of reaching a solution to these.”
Wave energy developer Aquamarine Power was awarded over £3 million to support the development of its next-generation Oyster wave energy device.
The Oyster features a buoyant, hinged flap attached to the seabed at around ten metres depth, around half a kilometre from shore. The flap’s movement drives two hydraulic pistons, pushing high-pressure water through a conventional hydro-electric turbine onshore.
Installation of the 2.4MW Oyster demonstration project will begin at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney in summer 2011.
Each of its three 800kW flaps, measuring 26 by 16 metres, will deliver 250% more power than the single-flap Oyster prototype successfully deployed at EMEC in 2009.
Other design improvements make the devices simpler to install and maintain.
Martin McAdam, Chief Executive Officer of Aquamarine Power, said: “The marine energy industry has the potential to provide huge economic benefit to Scotland and Scottish businesses, with the creation of skilled jobs, a global export market and a secure and clean domestic energy supply.”
Irish energy technology company OpenHydro will use its £1.85 million award to help design, develop, manufacture and test a power conversion and control system for connecting arrays of tidal turbines to the grid.
OpenHydro was the first developer to deploy a test tidal turbine at Orkney’s EMEC, in 2006. In May 2008, it became the first to connect and generate tidal stream electricity onto the UK grid and then was the first to successfully demonstrate a method of safely and economically deploying turbines directly on the seabed.
OpenHydro Chief Executive James Ives said: “We are confident that, following completion of the project, we will have successfully demonstrated an economic and efficient method of grid connecting and controlling large scale commercial tidal arrays.”
Earlier this year, OpenHydro, in conjunction with SSE Renewables, was awarded licence rights by The Crown Estate to develop a major, 200MW tidal farm in the Pentland Firth (see HI-energy’s Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Case Study)
Highland-based company AWS Ocean Energy received £1.39 million of WATERS funding towards further development of its AWS-III device, a ring-shaped, surface-floating wave power system.
It combines 12 air-pumping cells, or diaphragms, each driving an electric turbine.
Following completion of trials of the 1/9th scale AWS-III on Loch Ness during 2010, AWS will build and test a single full-scale wave diaphragm in the Cromarty Firth.
They then aim to launch a complete full-scale demonstrator device, measuring 60 metres in width and rated at 2.5MW, by 2012. They hope to have a 10MW pre-commercial wave farm operating in 2014.
Simon Grey, chief executive of AWS Ocean Energy said: “The WATERS grant award has come at exactly the right time for us and will support the final stages of de-risking the key component of the AWS-III technology.
“We are currently seeking further private investment and the WATERS award, together with the clear market demand for AWS-III created by the Pentland Firth wave power licensing round, will be invaluable in securing this.”
Tidal stream energy developer Oceanflow Energy secured £0.56 million to support build and deployment of its Evopod tidal energy turbine.
The company aims to deploy and grid-connect the 35kW demonstration device at a tidal stream site in Sanda Sound, off Argyll’s South Kintyre coast, in 2011.
The floating, semi-submerged Evopod’s mooring and power export solution allows it to maintain optimum heading into the tidal stream or ocean current.
The device uses proven, low cost wind turbine and marine industry components, can be readily disconnected for maintenance in sheltered waters, and is designed to offer a low cost, low risk entry to the tidal stream, ocean current and river estuary renewable energy market.
It aims to demonstrate viability for community-scale use and for up-scaled, multiple deployment devices in harsh environments such as the Pentland Firth.
Graeme Mackie, Managing Director of Oceanflow, said: "The timing of the WATERS funding support is perfect as it follows private investment secured by the company in recent months and demonstrates the optimism of the market in our renewable energy product."