Marine Power Systems Ltd (MPS) is developing a flexible ocean energy technology which can be configured to deliver wave power (WaveSub), floating wind power (WindSub) or combined energy generation (DualSub) at grid scale.
The technology benefits from a single deployment, recovery and operation and maintenance strategy. This unique approach enables MPS to deliver the energy generation solutions that fit the resource that their customers wish to exploit. Maximum energy extraction will be delivered from a given area of ocean whilst ensuring that their customers benefit from the lowest levelised cost of energy.
Based in South Wales, the company was co-founded in 2008 by Swansea University engineering graduates, Dr Gareth Stockman and Dr Graham Foster to develop and bring to market their marine renewable energy technologies.
Their pioneering technologies have the potential to substantially reduce the costs of energy generation and unlock the huge energy potential of ocean waves and offshore winds. The company’s long-term vision is to take its products to a commercial market and become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of multi-megawatt marine energy devices which can generate clean, affordable, reliable energy for countries around the globe.
MPS engaged with the Marine-i team who, as well as providing access to the testing facilities and research expertise at University of Plymouth’s COAST Lab, helped source an office location to support WaveSub’s 1:4 scale sea-trials at University of Exeter’s FaBTest site and provided introductions to the Cornish marine energy supply chain for help with deployment and maintenance work.
Tank testing at University of Plymouth’s COAST Lab
Craig Whitlam, Senior Design and Development Engineer at MPS, explains how the company has worked with University of Plymouth’s COAST Lab.
Craig says: “WaveSub has a unique orbital energy capture mechanism – directly and efficiently harnessing the subsurface orbital energy flow of the waves. Each float can capture over 1.5 megawatts of power, and each WaveSub device has multiple floats, leading to significant multi megawatt power output per machine.
“WaveSub is designed to survive storms by retracting the float securely against the reactor platform deep underwater, well beneath the harsh conditions on the sea surface. In its surface configuration WaveSub is straightforward to transport and maintain and is accessible on-site for servicing.
“By November 2018, we had reached the point where we felt it was important to conduct further scale model testing of the technology in order to prove the concept, and University of Plymouth’s COAST Lab provided the ideal facility for this work.”
Dr Martyn Hann, Lecturer in Coastal Engineering at University of Plymouth, explains: “COAST Lab offers world class testing facilities and we were delighted to offer access to MPS.
“COAST Lab provides physical model testing with combined waves, currents and wind, offered at scales appropriate for device testing, array testing, environmental modelling and coastal engineering. The facility has the capability to generate short and long-crested waves in combination with currents at any relative direction, sediment dynamics, tidal effects and wind. It is one of the most advanced hydrodynamic test facilities in the world.”
Craig says: “We carried out two weeks of exhaustive testing in the Ocean Basin at the COAST Lab. The Ocean Basin allows waves and currents to be generated at any relative orientation and can be run at different water depths. This allowed us to test three devices: WaveSub, WindSub and DualSub.
“This testing allowed us to study in detail how these devices would perform in typical ocean conditions, examine their performance on key aspects such as stability, survivability and power output, and also validate our own in-house computer simulations.
“There were other valuable outputs from these COAST Lab tests. The University of Plymouth equipment incorporates motion-capture technology which allowed us to look in detail at the behaviour of the devices in different wave and wind combinations. COAST Lab also has HD video systems which captured footage of the devices both above and below the waterline. We have been able to use this video material to present and explain the technology in presentations to investors and at conferences.”
Successful trials at FaBTest
MPS moved forward with sea trials of a 1:4 scale version of WaveSub at the FaBTest site, which is managed by University of Exeter. In September 2019, the company announced that these had been successfully completed, proving WaveSub’s functionality and its ability to generate zero-carbon electricity from ocean waves. Dr Graham Foster, Chief Technology Officer at MPS says:
“The wrap-up of the WaveSub testing at FaBTest is a significant step forwards for MPS and we’re delighted with what we have achieved. We have demonstrated the fundamental USP’s of WaveSub such as its inherent ease of transportation, deployment and maintenance; we have achieved a high level of technical capability with the remote control, monitoring and communication systems; and importantly we have shown we are able to generate grid compliant electricity from ocean waves.
“An R&D project of this scale and complexity was never going to been plain sailing – we’ve had to deal with various issues and setbacks along the way. Support from the highly capable local supply chain and the team at FaBTest was invaluable – with their help we successfully overcame our problems and gathered vital data on the performance and functionality of WaveSub. The knowledge we’ve accrued over the last year will be duly fed into the full-scale WaveSub project and will be essential for reducing risks and ensuring a successful outcome.”
Further research at University of Plymouth
In November 2019, the MPS team returned to COAST Lab for a further four weeks of testing. Craig Whitlam says:
“Following the FaBTest trials, we continue to fine-tune our technology. With WaveSub we have now designed an improved power take-off system and for WindSub we have updated the design of our floating platform.
“As we moved into the final stages of development for WaveSub, it became apparent that many of its features make it well suited to the needs of the floating offshore wind sector. Its stability in deep water can make it an ideal platform for wind turbines, therefore we are accelerating our research in this area. A current project being carried out by a University of Plymouth PhD student has produced a scale wind turbine model which has been made available to MPS for integration to our floating platform for testing in the Ocean Basin. We are also very grateful for the research being carried out by Dr Martyn Hann, Lecturer in Coastal Engineering at University of Plymouth.”
Dr Hann explains: “In COAST Lab we are carrying out research to develop and improve the physical modelling of floating wind turbine platforms. This will allow us to examine the effect of variable loading on the WindSub and DualSub devices. This is real, cutting-edge research which will be valuable for Marine Power Systems product development and will also have important applications for the global offshore wind industry.”
Craig Whitlam says: “We are delighted with the support that we have received through the ongoing relationship with University of Plymouth and the team at COAST Lab as well as from Marine-i, the University of Exeter FaBTest team and the local supply chain.
“The success that we have achieved with these trials has enabled MPS to take a significant step towards commercialisation of our new technologies. We have now been awarded significant funding from both the Welsh European Funding Office, £12.8m, to progress the design, manufacture and testing of a full-scale version of the WaveSub. In addition, we have been awarded more than £4.3m of European Regional Development Funds, under the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership to progress the design, manufacture and testing of a scaled version of the DualSub.”
MPS project enters final stage
In May 2021, MPS announced that the Biscay Marine Energy Platform, in Northern Spain, has been chosen for the deployment of a grid-connected commercial megawatt scale device. The site offers ideal deep water testing conditions and a direct connection into the electricity grid. This project will prove the reliability and effectiveness of their technology at scale as well as support the certification process. MPS have said that this represents the final stage in their testing programme before they deliver commercial devices to their customers.