Scotland unveils investment in marine energy technology

More than £14m of new government investment in marine energy has been unveiled following the start of a competition to spur on technology development in the sector.

Five companies building wave and tidal energy prototypes will receive £7.9m from the Scottish government, while the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and Scottish Enterprise have awarded more than £6.5m to seven projects developing supporting technology.

The news follows an announcement yesterday by four British companies that they are entering the £10m Saltire Prize competition, which aims to encourage the development of marine energy devices.

Two tidal energy developers (MeyGen and Scottish Power Renewables) and two wave companies (Pelamis and Aquamarine) will compete under the Grand Challenge phase of the prize to produce the greatest volume of electricity from Scottish waters over a continuous two-year period by 2017.

Scottish government spokesperson Russell Fallis told The Engineer that the prize had already worked in a way similar to other innovation competitions to encourage the development of marine energy technology.

‘The Saltire Prize is one of a number of initiatives that we have but it’s one that’s been widely welcomed by the industry… and has resulted at this stage in four people stepping up and saying they think they can meet the challenge,’ he said.

‘The process of competition, providing a focus and helping accelerate development, started in 2008, when we had more than 160 expressions of interest from 31 countries.’

Lindsay Roberts, policy manager for trade body Scottish Renewables, welcomed the announcements.

‘The Saltire Prize challenge has the potential to produce radical breakthroughs in what is an emerging sector of the renewables industry,’ she said via email.

‘Creating a prize helps incentivise competition within marine energy developers to push forward in a way that not only spurs on research and development but also captures the public imagination.’

The Scottish government says the country has up to a 25 per cent of Europe’s tidal power resources and 10 per cent of its potential wave power and is already a world leader in the technology, with more full-scale devices deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre on Orkney than at any other site in the world.

Deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon and Barry Johnston, chief executive officer of WATERS 2 funding recipient Scotrenewables Tidal Power

Three tidal power and two wave energy developers will share the £7.9m of funding awarded under the second round of the Scottish government’s WATERS (Wave and Tidal Energy: Research, Development and Demonstration Support) scheme.

‘The WATERS 2 funding sends a further clear signal that Scotland — already blessed with some of the world’s greatest concentrations of marine energy resource and with unrivalled offshore energy engineering expertise — will continue to provide the optimum research and investment environment for developers and commercial partners,’ said deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon in a statement.

The companies rewarded under the WATERS 2 scheme are:

  • Scotrenewables Tidal Power — £1.2m towards a project to design, construct and install a 2MW SR 2000 commercial-scale floating tidal turbine
  • AlbaTERN — £617,000 towards the deployment of a WaveNET demonstrator array comprising six SQUID 7.5kW wave energy converters
  • AWS Ocean Energy — £3.9m towards a scheme to design, build and launch stages of a project to prove the AWS-III WEC device at full scale
  • Nautricity — £1.4m towards the building and testing of a full-scale, pre-commercial CoRMaT 500kW tidal turbine
  • Oceanflow Development — £750,000 towards a project to build and field-test a quarter-scale prototype twin-turbine tidal energy converter, Evopod TE70

The £6.5m TSB funding will support the development and demonstration of technologies that can be used across the industry and solve common problems in the deployment of the first wave and tidal arrays.

This includes electrical connection architectures for large-scale tidal power arrays, a vessel to handle the aggressive marine conditions of tidal energy sites and a system that uses ultrasonic waves to prevent the bio-fouling of submerged generators.

TSB chief executive Iain Gray said: ‘These projects will help UK businesses to exploit innovative new technologies in a growing market.

‘The marine energy industry is at a critical stage and needs to demonstrate that energy from wave and tidal power can be generated, successfully, at scale and at a reduced cost.’

The companies leading the TSB-funded projects are:

  • CC Hydrosonics
  • IT Power
  • Mojo Maritime
  • SSE Renewables
  • Tension Technology International
  • Tidal Generation
  • TidalStream