Wave of the future

Belfast-based Pure Marine Gen is developing wave-energy technology that harnesses water movement in two directions to make electricity generated from the sea more cost effective.

Government-funded low-carbon company Carbon Trust recently granted the company £153,000 to take the DUO WEC (Wave Energy Converter) project through the modelling stage.

Dr Paul Brewster, Pure Marine Gen’s technical director, said: ‘Most existing concepts are uni-mode, but there’s increasing interest in how you can extract power from both the up-and-down and side-to-side motions of the waves. The focus of our research is to design a technology solution that will ultimately do it better.’

The company has filed a patent for its novel design concept, which is currently under wraps, and is in the process of developing a 2MW model. This would be deployed several kilometres offshore in large arrays with a total capacity of more than 500MW — the equivalent of a small coal-fired plant. The electricity the technology generates would be transmitted to the grid via the same type of cables used by offshore wind farms.

Pure Marine Gen is currently carrying out mathematical modelling of the design and building physical models for tank testing. If that goes well, the company’s next focus will be to produce a prototype design that can be trialled in a real marine environment.

Brewster sees the company’s location as key to the project’s success. ‘The office is in the Northern Ireland science park in Belfast — a stone’s throw from Harland and Wolff shipbuilders, who have some of the leading naval architects in the world at our disposal,’ he said. ‘We also have research contacts at Queens University. We’re doing a project with University College Cork and several local businesses are involved.’

Berenice Baker