WAVE and tidal energy companies are to be asked for their views on the future development of EMEC, the Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre
The centre is already responding to the needs of the marine power industry by developing new nursery sites for testing prototype devices.
“We aim to consult widely on potential locations and on other facilities that would benefit wave and tidal developers in the future,” said EMEC managing director Neil Kermode. Funding worth £8 million from DECC, the UK Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change, will support the creation of four nursery sites, two for tidal and two for wave machines.
These will allow developers to trial smaller scale marine energy devices – as well as full size prototypes – in less challenging sea conditions than those experienced at EMEC’s main test sites.
“It’s good to see the Government backing our ambition to provide additional support for wave and tidal energy developers,” Mr Kermode said.
EMEC’s two main sites are the world’s first at-sea grid-connected test facilities for machines that can harvest the power of waves and tidal currents.
“As this new industry evolves, it’s become apparent that expanding our portfolio of marine test sites will bring real benefits for the developers we are here to support,” he said.
“As we’ve seen at EMEC, some developers are keen to subject their prototype technologies to the full force of the sea at our main wave and tidal test sites.
“Others would prefer the sort of half-way house our new nursery sites will provide – enabling them conduct sea trials in less rigorous conditions with either scaled down or full size machines.” Pelamis, the first wave device to generate electricity for the National Grid at EMEC, initially underwent sea trials in the Firth of Forth as a seventh-scale prototype.
Stromness-based Scotrenewables (Marine Power) Ltd is currently testing a fifth-scale tidal turbine and sees this as an important way to develop the technology before commissioning a full size machine. Irish company OpenHydro is testing its prototype turbine at EMEC’s main tidal test site and has just delivered a far larger 1-megawatt (MW) machine for installation at the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.
“We’re seeing a scaling up in the technologies as they move from the prototype stage into the commercial market place,” said Mr Kermode.
“Our new facilities will support this process – by offering developers a choice when they make the move from the test tank to at-sea trials of their machines.”
The DECC funding will also allow the installation of three new grid-connected berths, two at the main tidal test site and another at the main wave test site.
“This reflects a growing demand from developers,” he added. “We’re delighted that the Government is continuing to invest in the facilities we need to nurture this important new industry.”
Elaine Hanton, joint head of energy at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “The waters around Orkney have some of the best wave and tidal energy testing conditions in the world. By engaging with developers, EMEC is well placed to make the most of the resources on their doorstep. HIE is committed to working with our partners to ensure that Scotland gets maximum benefit from renewable energy generation and we will continue to be a strong supporter of EMEC.”
EMEC was established with around £15 million of funding from the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Carbon Trust, the UK Government, Scottish Enterprise, the European Union and Orkney Islands Council.