EMEC identifies scale test sites

Scotland’s test centre for commercial-scale wave- and tidal-energy devices is expanding to attract businesses who wish to test small prototypes earlier in the product-development cycle.

The Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has now identified ’nursery sites’ in the islands in which energy devices can be tested – a halfway house between testing such devices in tanks and full ocean conditions.

’These scale test sites will enable developers to take quicker and cost-effective routes to market, through initial access to more benign conditions,’ said EMEC managing director Neil Kermode.

’They will be supported by moorings, data collection and other services complementary to our full-scale test areas, along with ’load dump’ capabilities – as their power output will not go to the grid. This means that the developers can concentrate on their devices and technologies, free of many other technical issues,’ he added.

Four new berths – two each for wave and tidal – will be available next year. Two general areas for the berth sites have been earmarked for further exploration – wave berths within the north-east corner of Scapa Flow and tidal berths in the Shapinsay Sound.

They were selected after consultations with developers to focus on their needs, including wave and tidal strengths, device sizes, shore-side facilities, and speed and ease of local harbour access.

Ongoing discussions with other stakeholders will determine the best specific sites in each area, to minimise environmental impacts and avoid sea traffic. The berths are being developed with funding from the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), subject to issues including consents and seabed lease agreements.

EMEC’s larger commercial-scale sites have so far attracted a range of device developers who have located there or will arrive this year. These include Pelamis Wave Power, Aquamarine Power, Openhydro and Tidal Generation.

With demand building, EMEC is also expanding both commercial-scale sites, cabling a fifth wave berth at Billia Croo, off the south-west Orkney mainland, and taking the number of tidal berths at the Fall of Warness off the island of Eday from five to seven.

EMEC was established in 2003 in a £15m project coordinated by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and also including funding from the Scottish and UK governments, Scottish Enterprise, the Carbon Trust, the EU and the Orkney Islands Council.