Neil Kermode

Neil Kermode Interview

Managing director of EMEC, the world's leading test facility for marine renewables, Neil Kermode describes the work of EMEC and what he likes best about his job.

Q: What have been EMEC’s main challenges in its formative years?

Firstly, creating the world’s first accredited wave and tidal test sites, and determining what that would look like.  EMEC was established to provide purpose-built, grid connected facilities making it as easy as possible for developers to perform testing, so they can concentrate on making the technology work.

Q: What have been its greatest achievements so far?

There have been a number of world firsts – when Pelamis Wave Power generated to the grid at EMEC back in 2004, it was the first time a floating wave energy converter had done that anywhere in the world.  The OpenHydro turbine installed in 2006 was the first ever grid connected tidal turbine in Scotland.  EMEC has also led the creation of a suite of 12 industry guidelines for marine energy, 5 of which have been taken forward for adoption of international standards.

Q: What are EMEC’s key competitive edges?

Our world-leading experience – although marine renewables is still a nascent industry, at EMEC we probably know more than anyone about the challenges and opportunities the industry presents, and have learnt a great deal through the work done since EMEC was established back in 2003.

The other key to EMEC’s success is Orkney – the wave and tidal resources and pioneering spirit of the local community are fundamental to progressing projects.

Q: What types of local supply chain services do you use?

We use local vessel operators, electrical contractors, environmental consultants, wildlife observers as well as transport and accommodation providers, and our clients use all of these and many more.  Aquamarine Power estimate they spent £1m in the local economy in the course of installing their Oyster device at our wave test site.

Q: How has EMEC adapted its approach as it has progressed?

EMEC is on a constant learning curve as new technologies and developers come forward.  Whilst the test sites are primarily for full-scale prototype testing, new smaller scale test facilities will be opening next year due to developer demand.  EMEC will also be developing its research and consultancy services as demand for our expertise grows worldwide.

Q: Do you see other particular changes in prospect?

EMEC is already witnessing an exponential increase in developer activity, test berths are filling up, and large utilities and industrial companies are progressing commercial scale projects.  There is a great deal of learning still to be done, but those commercial goals are becoming more tangible.

Q: Where do you see EMEC in five to ten years’ time?

Continuing to meet the changing demands of the industry – refining new technologies or deployment techniques, and leading cutting edge marine energy research.

Q: What do you enjoy most at EMEC?

Seeing metal getting wet.  It is only by getting these new machines into the water and getting them working that the technology developers can learn what they need to in order to progress.  EMEC plays a critical role in enabling that to happen, and contributing to a new, clean, renewable, secure energy source.


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