European Marine Energy Centre expands test facilities

EMEC, the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, Scotland, is expanding its test facilities by opening two special test sites for marine renewable devices.

The sites are aimed at developers looking to bridge the gap between tank testing and full-scale offshore trials.

Funding from the Department for Energy and Climate Change supported the creation of the new berths for smaller-scale marine energy prototypes.

Specially designed test support buoys were commissioned for both sites, to gather data and dissipate electricity generated by marine energy devices under test. These take the place of the cables and substations at the full-scale sites.

The first client at the new test facility is Scottish company AlbaTERN, which will take to the water at EMEC this summer with SQUID, a scalable wave energy converter.

AlbaTERN’s concept comes from its chief technical officer David Findlay and has been under development for four years.

The SQUID device is so called as it has the appearance of a squid, especially when under tow with its link arms trailing behind.

Once on site, an inflatable absorber that looks like a large balloon is filled with water. Sitting just under the surface, the absorber is moved by passing waves — and the energy from this motion drives a generator to produce electricity.

‘It’s cheap to build and cheap to deploy, operate and maintain,’ said David Campbell, AlbaTERN’s chief financial officer. ‘Single devices could be used to provide electricity for an individual home, for remote communities close to the sea, or for other off-grid users such as fish farms. We’re getting interest from worldwide.’

The machine under test at EMEC is designed to produce up to 10kW of electricity.

Future versions will reportedly have a greater power output and will be capable of being deployed in AlbaTERN’s patent pending WaveNET, an array made up of multiple wave energy converters.