Scotland is to ocean energy what Silcon Valley is to the tech industry. Thanks to its plentiful ocean energy resources, Scotland is home to both the European Marine Energy Centre and to the FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility at The University of Edinburgh. Companies from around the world that are the furthest along in developing their technology in this exciting renewable energy sector are working with or testing their devices at one these facilities.
In an effort to reduce the risk of testing wave and tidal energy devices, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and the FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility (FloWave) have joined forces to recreate scaled versions of Scotland’s oceans a laboratory setting.
Its not the first time these titans of the ocean energy industry have worked together and they both much bring a lot to the table. EMEC has been the world’s leading test centre for marine energy devices for over a decade and FloWave’s 25 metre circular test tank is the only facility in the world that can replicate ocean waves and tides.
This latest ambitious project will use EMEC’s decade of real life ocean data to replicate the Orkney’s seas in the FloWave tank. Leading the project will be research engineer Sam Draycott, now in the third year of a four year industrial doctorate in offshore renewable energy at FloWave.
The results will be incredibly valuable, according to EMEC Managing Director Neil Kermode:
“Developing a marine energy technology is not a linear process. You may start in a test tank before you bring an idea to sea, and then once you find out what works and what doesn’t, you end up back in the laboratory.
“At EMEC we have spent a lot of time recording wave and tidal data and are focussed on measuring the things that are important to developers. Our interest is in monitoring the conditions at a site, so that developers can use that data to aid their design process, and we can then validate the performance and potential power production of their technology.
“EMEC is purpose-built for sea trials with ready made test facilities, but working offshore can be expensive. That’s why it makes perfect sense to utilise the unique capabilities of FloWave to develop representative EMEC conditions in the test tank. By sharing this data, we will help accelerate learning from lab to sea and back again, and enable the UK to stay at the very forefront of this industry as it continues to mature.”
Its all about reducing risk, says FloWave Chief Executive Officer Stuart Brown:
“Testing full-scale ocean energy technologies at sea can be an expensive and risky business,” says FloWave Chief Executive Officer Stuart Brown.
“The closer you can replicate real ocean conditions in the laboratory, the better you can refine your prototype and validate how it might perform – before testing part-scale or full-scale devices at sea.
“To date, test tanks have only been able to generate waves or tidal flows – but anyone who has been to Orkney will know, Scotland’s oceans are much more complex and usually combine both. At FloWave our unique facility gives us the ability to create both waves and tidal currents at the same time,” Brown says.
“This is similar to the way an airliner would be tested in a wind tunnel during development, and is a real world first for the ocean energy sector. Ocean technology developers now have a clear pathway from the computer to the laboratory to EMEC and, if required, back to FloWave again.” Brown concludes.
Lindsay Roberts, Senior Policy Manager for industry body Scottish Renewables said:
“Real-sea testing of marine energy devices allows developers to gain a unique understanding of the way their machines work, but not everyone is ready to jump straight in at the deep end. FloWave provides real-sea conditions in the centre of Edinburgh, in all weathers and through all 12 months of the year, speeding up opportunities for the eventual deployment of devices to the sea in places like Orkney.
“Replicating EMEC’s sea conditions at FloWave will help developers ensure their devices are ready for Orkney’s powerful waves and tides, and provide a cost-effective route to the later stages of real-world testing and eventual commercialisation.”
Tracey is an accountant and entrepreneur with a passion for nature. This passion is what spurred her interest in renewable energy, and the rest is history as they say. Tracey is a principal in Energy Think Group, the publisher of Solar Thermal Magazine and Tek-Think. She is also the principal at Women's Financial Help Desk. She spends her free time in the outdoors with her horses and dogs. She loves to travel.