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Marine-i Discovery Room: Wave Energy Technology 'Meet the Buyer' Event - SUMMARY

Post Event Summary

 Representatives from UK maritime industry service and product suppliers, universities, regulators, infrastructure managers and the Marinei initiative joined the AMOG team, to consider and discuss the development of a wave energy converter in the South West.

As the first phase of the Marine-i programme draws to a close, with the just a small portion of the ring-fenced £3.9M remaining, Professor Lars Johanning highlighted the successes and benefits that the funding, support and research has brought to business in Cornwall and further afield. Some 1800 businesses have been assisted by a skilled team of industry focused professionals, rapidly growing their technological prowess and market share over a short period, through up to 80% investment intervention, business and research support. Leo McLeman backed these claims with evidence from satisfied recipients of the Marine Challenge Fund, now almost all committed, and highlighting that whilst the uncertainty of Britain’s exit from the EU still looms, H.M. Government has agreed to honour all of the financial commitments it made as part of the European Commission’s 2014 – 2020 multiannual financial framework, including European Structural Investment Funds, projects from which (including Marine-i) run until 2022.

Partners of the project, the University of Plymouth and the University of Exeter, accompanied Cornwall Development Company in illustrating the unparalleled infrastructure supporting marine technology development in Cornwall. Shaun Herman, in the context of Cornwall Council’s recent declaration of a state of climate emergency, highlighted the need for lower carbon technologies, and showcased the facilities and space within dedicated marine enterprise zones. Alex Whatley, showed the versatility of the Plymouth COAST lab facilities and SuperGen Marine in its capacity to support development of tools and technologies, collaborations and innovation programmes internationally, for offshore renewable energy technologies. From controlled, down-scaled, tank testing, the day progressed to field testing of wave energy converters (WECs), firstly with Falmouth Bay Test site (FaBTest), a nursery test site, and onto WaveHub, Cornwall’s, full-scale, commercial, grid connected marine energy test site. Dr George Crossley showed FaBTest’s proximity to harbour facilities and shelter from the most severe storms, and recent deployments at the site, before Stuart Herbert explained the recent upgrade of WaveHub’s cable to 33kV and their move to host floating wind turbines, in reflection of the current state of the wave energy industry.

Stephanie Mann, of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult gave a very realistic perspective on the wave energy position within the UK and global energy network, highlighting the lack of convergence in device concepts, and the frequent overselling of potential outputs. Dr Mann indicated a target of 1GW installed capacity by 2040 with the largest decreases in LCOE (Levelised Cost Of Energy) achieved through accelerated reductions, learning by doing, and innovation, with jobs growing from the current 1,700 to 23,000 in the UK.  AMOG refuted the targets, showcasing their WEC, with outlines for ambitious multi-gigawatt arrays, following a carefully staged testing plan of their rigorously engineered device.

The afternoon saw discussion around some of the grand challenges facing wave energy developers in their progression to commercialisation. Experts in the industry, including Martin Murphy (Marine Energy Wales, OREC, formerly of Tidal Energy Ltd), Peter Child (Cornwall Marine Network, formerly MD of A&P Falmouth), and Julian Osborne (Vattenfall) engaged with Hayden Marcollo, Rob Maynard, David Rowley, and Andrew Potts from AMOG Consulting Ltd in topics around installation, operations and maintenance, design, and export of power.

Devices with interchangeable ‘cassettes’ as well as optimised numbers of devices to swap into farm arrays for ease and economics of maintenance were discussed along with the wet/dry mate connectors and the viability of purpose-built vessels, docks, and shipyards. AMOG’s experience in offshore engineering was brought to the fore in conversations around design standards and reliability, as well as mooring and cabling solutions, drawing knowledge from offshore oil & gas experience to question the sometimes dampened enthusiasm of many who have been involved in marine energy conversion technology. It was largely agreed that alternative energy storage solutions, such as ammonia and hydrogen were still not sufficiently ready to economically integrate into already novel machines, whilst battery and hybrid solutions, topical in maritime industries following recent IMO (International Maritime Organisation) governance, would likely provide opportunities in bringing LCOE down, as well as integration into existing infrastructure such as offshore wind farms.

Many questions remain unanswered, and many more raised, and this article calls the reader to engage with the funding and research opportunities, the facilities and existing infrastructure, and progressive companies such as AMOG, to push your business towards supporting sustainable growth in low carbon industries and tackling these prevalent questions.

Grand Challenge 1: Installation, Operations and Maintenance

·  How to install, service and maintain a system in a high wave energy environment

·  Easily disconnect-able systems, switching in spare WECs

·  The use of pre-laid infrastructure

Grand Challenge 2: Design

·  Differences to offshore O&G (many units versus single units, reliability)

·  The creation of industry standard RPs 

·  The availability of shipyards

·  Composites versus steel

Grand Challenge 3: Exporting power

·  Cabling from highly dynamic system

·  Alternative power export via Hydrogen as a gas, organic liquid or ammonia

·  Use of intermediary battery storage

·  Inter-connecting into future offshore arrays