This summer witnessed the commencement of two significant funding schemes in the wave and tidal sector.
The second round of WATERS (Wave and Tidal Energy: Research, Development and Demonstration Support) has awarded a total of £7.9million to five marine energy developers to help them develop testing of wave and tidal prototypes in the seas around Scotland.
Meanwhile, four more mature marine energy developers have begun to compete for the £10million Saltire prize. The competition, coordinated by the Scottish government, will reward the developer that manages to generate the most electricity from the sea over a continuous two-year period between now and the end of the challenge in 2017.
A recent report from The Crown Estate has confirmed the scale of the marine energy opportunity in the UK, citing the potential for tens of gigawatts of wave, tidal stream and tidal range projects at sites around England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. With the report recognising that the majority of the resource is concentrated in Scottish waters, the Scottish government is understandably enthusiastic about supporting marine energy technology and its associated supply chain.
Amongst the recipients of WATERS 2 funding was Oceanflow Energy; the company received a £750,000 grant to support the building and field-testing of a quarter scale prototype twin-turbine tidal energy converter, the Evopod TE70. The company had previously benefitted from the first round of WATERS funding (awarded in 2010), winning a grant that aided development of a mono- turbine device.
“The funding support is a great boost to the development of our Evopod system, allowing us to take the next step of demonstrating our floating platform technology that supports twin turbines for lower unit cost of power,” says Oceanflow managing director Graeme Mackie. “The funding covers the design, build, and installation of the device. Furthermore, there are issues in moving from a mono-turbine to a twin-turbine that we would want to evaluate.”
Whilst the funding is sufficient to validate the Evopod technology, Mackie acknowledges that “significantly more investment” is required for the technology to be rolled out at a commercial scale. Nevertheless, he is happy with the current five ROCs subsidy for marine energy and believes that the sector has a healthy future.
“In the next five years we would like to see small farms of Evopod devices deployed in UK waters,” he adds. “There is an exciting market for our device not just in the UK but throughout the globe.”
Meanwhile, wave energy developer AlbaTERN received £617,000 to support the deployment of its WaveNET demonstrator array. The WaveNET array is to comprise up to six ‘Squid’ devices – the company’s modular standalone wave energy converter – and will have a maximum rated capacity of 45kW.
John Findlay, CEO of AlbaTERN, describes winning WATERS 2 funding as a “significant plank” in the bid to demonstrate the commercial potential of his company’s technology. “We are very pleased that the hard work put in by our technical team has been rewarded with support and we look forward to progressing towards the larger grid scale devices that will follow from this work,” he says.
The company’s chief technology officer David Findlay adds that WaveNET is different to other developers in the sector because its technology involves the interconnection of individual devices.
“A modular system has a number of benefits: it produces a marked increase in yield and allows a product that can be tailored to meet the needs of the customer and the requirements of a particular site,” he explains. “We are testing a number of orthodoxies within the industry: firstly, that a wave energy device needs to be very large and, secondly, that a wave array will resemble a windfarm in having a series of separate devices installed in proximity to each other.
“In general, the Scottish government is doing everything that it can to support the marine energy sector,” he continues. “We are lucky to have a government that has a commitment to the industry and WATERS 2 is a confirmation of that.”
The other successful WATERS 2 bidders are: Scotrenewables Tidal Power, which received a £1.2million grant to construct and install a 2MW floating tidal turbine; Nautricity, which was granted £1.4million to develop its CoRMaT 500kW tidal turbine; and AWS Ocean Energy, which received the largest grant – £3.9million to develop a full scale version of its AWS-III wave energy converter.
Whilst WATERS funding is designed to support start-up companies and developing technologies within the marine energy sector, the Saltire Prize offers the opportunity for well-established wave and tidal companies to test their mettle.
A £10million prize is available to the organisation that achieves the greatest volume of electrical output, over a minimum threshold of 100GWh, over a continuous two-year period using only the power of the sea.
The challenge period began in June 2012 with marine energy heavyweights Aquamarine, Pelamis, MeyGen, and ScottishPower Renewables having stepped up to battle it out for the prize.
Three of the entrants will site their projects in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters. Aquamarine is the odd-one-out, choosing to deploy its Oyster wave energy converter in waters off the Isle of Lewis.
The Saltire Prize in some ways mirrors the Rainhill trials, the 1829 competition convened by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway to select the best design for a steam locomotive. Stephenson’s Rocket won the day and ushered in the revolutionary age of the railway. Might the Saltire Prize prompt a comparable revolution in the take up of clean marine energy?
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is certainly hopeful: “Scotland’s clean energy challenge to the world has helped draw international attention to the planet-saving potential of wave and tidal power,” she says. “The four competitors have stepped up to the challenge, and in doing so can drive each other still further and faster forward towards the goal of large-scale commercial electricity generation from the power of the world’s seas and oceans.”
The prize is the largest renewable energy award of its kind and matches the ambition of a maturing industry. “The Saltire Prize will act as a global catalyst galvanising the interest of innovators, entrepreneurs, governments and philanthropists from around the world,” comments Martin McAdam, CEO of Aquamarine Power. “Producing clean energy from our oceans is one of our world’s greatest technological challenges; the £10million prize reflects the scale of that challenge.”
“The Scottish government is putting Scotland’s wave and tidal technologies on a global pedestal,” adds Pelamis CEO Per Hornung Pedersen. “Pelamis was delighted to be the first official applicant for the Saltire Prize and we are working intensively to deliver the robust commercial technology required to win it, and through that the compelling ‘win-win’ of renewable energy generation and industrial opportunity that this sector represents for Scotland.”