Project will determine Western Isles’ marine-energy potential

Researchers at Lews Castle College, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), are working on a project backed by £900,000 in Scottish Funding Council knowledge-exchange grants to determine the potential of marine energy to the west of the Outer Hebrides.

Martin McAdam, chief executive of lead industry partner Aquamarine Power, said the project offered an excellent opportunity for the Western Isles to become a real centre of expertise in wave energy.

‘This research will identify clearly the wave energy potential to the west of the Hebrides and also highlight some of the medium-term constraints, such as electricity-grid infrastructure,’ he added.

Headed by the Greenspace low-carbon and renewable-energy research team at Lews Castle College UHI, the project will be supported by Aquamarine Power, Voith Hydro Wavegen, Pelamis, SSE Renewables, Scottish Power, Npower Renewables, E.ON, BiFab, the Scottish Energy Technology Partnership, the local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the community landlord Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (The Galson Estate Trust), among others.

It will involve other UHI partners, including the Environmental Research Institute, part of North Highland College UHI in Thurso, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science, near Oban. Experts from the universities of Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Heriot Watt will also be engaged in the work.

Project manager Arne Vögler, a specialist in the design and commissioning of integrated energy systems, said the project would undertake a range of tasks from seabed surveying and wave data logging over energy-resource assessments, near and offshore, to the modelling of the interaction of multiple devices of different makes and their impact on the electrical grid.

‘We will identify the highest-energy sites off the Outer Hebrides and also look at the environmental impact of wave-energy converters, with particular focus on the seabird population, marine mammals, benthos and fisheries,’ he added.