Scientists recreate Scotland's' seas to test wave energy technology
A ground-breaking wave pool at the University of Edinburgh claims to be the first ever testing-facility to recreate both the wave and tidal movement of Scotland's seas.
Researchers behind the FloWave project say it will enable developers to test their technology without having to pay for expensive offshore trials.
“Testing full-scale ocean energy technologies at sea can be an expensive and risky business,” said 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.”
The project was developed in collaboration with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), which is providing wave and tidal data collected from buoys in the seas around Scotland.
Commenting on the initiative, Scottish Renewables senior policy manager Lindsay Roberts 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.”
On the horizon
In another boost for the UK wave energy sector this week, the EU’s innovation fund has awarded €800,000 to help UK firm Aquamarine Power develop its wave energy converter.
Aquamarine and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM) have already built two full-scale Oyster wave-converters at EMEC in Orkney. The new funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme will be invested in optimising the energy capture and economic performance of the Oyster system.
Aquamarine Power CEO Paddy O'Kane said the research would held drive down costs and prepare Oyster for commercialisation.
Scottish Renewables' Roberts added: "Scotland leads the world in the development of wave energy devices, and it's fantastic to see that the European Union's commitment to the technology remains strong.
“Aquamarine Power's Oyster has generated some great results from its testing to date, and further work on power take-off will help ensure that it remains on course for commercialisation."
Although not yet commercialised, wave energy has the potential to be more reliable, consistent and cheaper than other forms of energy generation, including wind power, according to a recent study by the journal Renewable Energy.
The Scottish Government has been keen to take advantage of Scotland’s natural resources in this area, setting up a new dedicated body – Wave Energy Scotland – to help push to sector toward commercialisation.