'Oyster' wave energy converter connected to Scotland's grid
Adding to the marine power projects already being developed in the UK by Marine Current Turbines, Aquamarine Power last week connected the world's largest working hydro-electric wave energy device, off Scottland's Orkney Islands, to the UK National Grid.
Even the staunchest of renewable energy advocates understand that the most consistent of commercial solar and wind energy projects will likely have some down-time from a pause in the resource (cloudy and calm days, respectively). But other emergent renewable technologies like wave and tidal power aren't susceptible to the same degree of intermittency. Well aware of the regularity benefits in wave and tidal energy resources, engineers, investors and the UK government have embraced marine power research and deployment in recent months. And since marine energy has the potential to meet up to 20% of the UK’s energy demands, the UK is uniquely situated to take advantage of an exceptionally large renewable resource.
Developed by Edinburgh-based Aquamarine Power's marine energy researchers at Queen's University, Belfast, the Oyster deploys a hinged flap fixed to the sea floor that uses the motion of waves to drive hydraulic pistons that pump high pressure water to an onshore hydro-electric turbine.
Oyster is designed to capture the energy found in nearshore waves in water depths between 10 and 16 meters. A farm of 20 Oysters would provide enough energy to power approximately 9,000 homes.
With minimal moving parts and with all of the device's electrical components located onshore, Aquamarine Power says the benefit of Oyster is its simplicity, and that it is tough enough to withstand the rigours of Scotland’s harsh seas. Watch the Oyster in action:
Scottish First Minister announces more funding for wave power
Switching on and connecting the Oyster to the National Grid was Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond who also announced £975,000 in new funding to help deliver Oyster 2--three linked devices with a total capacity of 2MW--by 2011. This is the largest Scottish Enterprise R&D grant ever awarded to a marine renewables project.
"I am delighted to confirm further R&D funding of almost £1 million to Aquamarine Power for the development of Oyster 2, which could be installed within two years. Through our investments and initiatives such as the Saltire Prize, the Scottish Government is working to ensure we capitalise on our rich natural resources, to meet our ambitious climate change targets, to create more high-skilled green jobs and to make a substantial contribution to one of the most pressing global challenges," said Salmond.
"We have proved what we always believed - that wave energy can produce sustainable zero-emission electricity to power our homes," Martin McAdam, Chief Executive Officer of Aquamarine Power said. "The UK has one of the best wave resources in the world. Now it also has the best technology."
Scotland's waters hold around ten per cent of Europe’s wave power potential and as much as a quarter of its tidal power potential.
The Oyster switched on last week has generated over £1 million for the local Orkney economy, according to figures released by Aquamarine Power. It is estimated that the marine energy industry could provide as many as 12,500 jobs, contributing £2.5 billion to the UK economy by 2020.
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