Monday, 25 January 2010 09:20 EMEC: The One and Only
Written by Ava
Did you know there's only one wave and tide power test facility in all of Europe?

Yep, it's true.  The European Marine Energy Centre is the only place in the entire European continent that will prototypes of renewable marine energy devices. 

The Reef Tank wanted to find out all about this amazing feat and had the chance to chat with Eileen Linklater, client relationship and marketing manager for the large scale facility, who has the responsibility of monitoring and managing contracts with developers and ensuring all goals are met. She also deals with public relations and marketing enquiries.

Yes, there's more.  Eileen is also the first person of contact for all prospective developers and visitors to EMEC.  

With all that going on, Eileen still managed to find time to answers our questions all about the Centre. 

Here's what Eileen had to say: 

What are the goals of the European Marine Energy Centre?

As Europe’s first and currently, only, wave and tide power test facility, EMEC is here to test full scale prototypes of renewable marine energy devices. EMEC's Mission Statement is:

"To be the internationally acknowledged leading test and certification centre for marine energy converters."

We are currently the world’s only accredited test laboratory for wave and tidal energy converters.  As such we have also become a bit of a shop window for the marine renewables industry so we get lots of media interest!
Why is marine energy a good alternative source to other types of energy?

Renewable energy is an integral part of the long-term aim to reduce our climates CO2 emissions. The current European target is to source 20% of the Europe's energy from renewable sources by 2020. We estimate that 20% of the UK’s electricity demand could be sourced from marine renewables.

The global wave power potential has been estimated to be around 1000-10,000GW, which is the same order of magnitude as world electrical energy consumption.  It is suggested that while 3000GW of tidal energy is estimated to be available, less than 3% is located in areas suitable for power generation. Tidal current energy is therefore very site specific, optimised only where tidal range is amplified by factors such as shelving of the sea bottom, funnelling in estuaries and reflections by large peninsulas. However, tidal power has the distinct advantage of being highly predictable compared with some other forms of renewable energy which makes tidal energy development an attractive option.
The Centre is the first site of its kind anywhere in the world. Why do you think other nations haven’t formed their own yet and do you think this will change in the coming years as marine energy because more common?

The UK and Scottish Governments have invested a great deal of financial and other support into marine renewables because the resources around our coast are so plentiful.  However, we think that any country with a west facing coast is likely to want to capitalise on wave energy, and there are some well documented tidal hotspots all over the world too.  We are regularly visited by researchers from different countries investigating what we are doing and to see if it could be replicated.  We have learnt a great deal in the time we’ve been operating so can provide valuable support to other facilities as they emerge.
Tell me about some of the facilities at EMEC

We have two test sites in Orkney, Scotland – one wave and one tidal.  Scotland’s northerly latitude, coupled with a complex marine geology that creates unparalleled tidal patterns, means that it has more than 25% of Europe’s wind and wave energy resource.

Operating in some of the most challenging seas in Europe, with tides of up to 8 knots and waves recorded at 15 metres, the devices tested here are given a rigorous and detailed testing by developers, using the data collected by EMEC.

The main services on offer when testing at EMEC are: 

  • Independent assessment of devices' energy conversion capabilities, structural performance and survivability
  • Assistance with Grid connection and ROCs (Renewable Obligations Certificate) accreditation
  • Real-time monitoring of meteorological and marine resource conditions
  • Extensive assistance with consent & regulatory issues
  • Opportunity to join EMEC's Monitoring Strategy
  • Extensive local research and engineering support
  • Nearby access to sheltered water and harbours
  • Office and data centre support

How do developers test their prototypes?

Developers lease a grid connected cable from us, and attach their own device to the end – we then provide all the support services listed above to make testing as easy as possible.
Tell me about your management system.

EMEC operates within a UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) accredited integrated management system, which incorporates Quality, Health & Safety and Environmental standards. This means we can offer independent, internationally recognised verification of the performance of devices which come to test at EMEC.

Tell me about the great strides currently being made in tidal power and wave power? (You can talk about things EMEC is doing specifically.) 

At EMEC we are already responding to the needs of the marine power industry by developing new nursery sites for testing prototype devices.  Funding worth £8 million from DECC, the UK Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change, will support the creation of four nursery sites, two for tidal and two for wave machines.  These will allow developers to trial smaller scale marine energy devices – as well as full size prototypes – in less challenging sea conditions than those experienced at EMEC’s main test sites.

As this new industry evolves, it’s become apparent that expanding our portfolio of marine test sites will bring real benefits for the developers we are here to support.  As we’ve seen at EMEC, some developers are keen to subject their prototype technologies to the full force of the sea at our main wave and tidal test sites whilst others would prefer the sort of half-way house our new nursery sites will provide – enabling them conduct sea trials in less rigorous conditions with either scaled down or full size machines.
What is the future of marine energy and the European Marine Energy Centre?

We’re seeing a scaling up in the technologies as they move from the prototype stage into the commercial market place and our new facilities will support this process – by offering developers a choice when they make the move from the test tank to at-sea trials of their machines.  The DECC funding will also allow the installation of three new grid-connected berths, two at the main tidal test site and another at the main wave test site reflecting a growing demand from developers. We see our service supporting a critical point in the industry – getting machines wet.  Only once the technology has been thoroughly testing in real-sea conditions can we look toward commercial developments.  We’re delighted that the Government is continuing to invest in the facilities we need to nurture this important new industry, and we foresee very busy times ahead as all our berths fill up.

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