Wave energy firms in Scotland, England and Ireland have joined forces with giant German industrial manufacturer Bosch Rexroth in a bid to create a standardised, self-contained offshore electricity generator for the wave industry.
The new collaboration comprises Edinburgh-based Aquamarine Power along with wave technology developers Albatern and Carnegie Wave Energy UK. It also includes Irish utility ESB which is developing the European-funded Westwave wave farm off the west coast of Ireland.
The Wave POD (Wave Power Offtake Device) will provide a commercial solution for the problem most wave energy developers face in transforming linear motion into electrical energy. It comprises an offshore hydraulic generator housed in a sealed nacelle which generates electrical power which is then cabled back to shore.
Bosch Rexroth and Aquamarine Power are developing one-tenth scale prototype to be tested at the Institute for Fluid Power Drives and Controls at Aachen University, Germany. The project tackles head-on one of the biggest challenges in wave energy – how to generate electricity reliably and cost- effectively at sea.
Louis Verdegem, ocean technology specialist at Bosch Rexroth, said: “Creating a way of converting kinetic energy into electricity is essential if we are to effectively harness the power of waves.
“Currently, cost-effective transformation of the captured energy into electricity remains beyond the industry’s grasp. This is due in part to the fragmented nature of current research and development, which is largely commissioned by individual manufacturers.
“Through this collaboration we expect the use of standardised components and system architectures to accelerate learning and propel the industry forward.”
The pan-industry initiative has been welcomed by trade body Ocean Energy Europe, where Chief Executive Officer Dr. Sian George said: “If Europe is to turn its advantage in ocean energy technologies into a new industrial sector, collaboration will be key.
“The WavePOD project provides a vehicle for ocean energy developers from all over Europe to work together and tackle problems in an efficient and cost effective way. We would encourage as many developers as possible to get involved in this project and hope to see this partnership approach applied to other barriers on the road to commercialisation.”
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According to Martin McAdam, Chief Executive, Aquamarine Power, the project has the potential to “transform the wave industry in the same way the internal combustion engine made the motor car possible.” He added:
“The global wave energy market has an estimated value worth hundreds of billions of pounds and the WavePOD addresses the sector’s challenges of improving reliability, developing standard components, fostering collaboration and driving down costs.
“It is my passionate belief that the only route to commercialisation is through collaboration, where we work together to solve the common problems we all face.
“This is a historic moment for the industry as it is the first time technology developers have come together to solve a key industry challenge. WavePOD is a quantum leap for the wave energy industry.”
The project has been welcomed by Brendan Barry, Manager, Emerging Energy Technologies at ESB, who said: “Wave energy has the potential to provide large quantities of indigenous, renewable energy and reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels.
“A number of companies have demonstrated concepts for capturing this energy at scale. As an end user of this type of equipment at the ESB Westwave project and follow on developments in Ireland and Europe, I am pleased to see the collaborative WavePOD project driving innovation towards a low carbon future.”
Tim Sawyer, Project Development Officer, Carnegie Wave Energy, said: “By working with Bosch Rexroth we intend to create an industry-enabling technology which will be available as a commercial product for a range of different ocean energy technologies.
“This makes a huge amount of sense for the industry – rather than every company developing its own technology, WavePOD will be a standard product which frees companies to pursue the development of their own unique machines, without having to worry about converting their technology’s motion into electricity.”
David Campbell, Chief Financial Officer, Albatern, said: “The broad base of this collaboration offers additional confidence to a leading supplier to the industry that the application of their expertise to a common challenge will improve reliability, reduce costs and accelerate a new line of business both for them, and for the other participants.”
The partnership also includes Professor Peter Stansby of University of Manchester, developer of the new line absorber M4M Wave Power. He said: “Conversion of mechanical power into electricity is a generic component of any wave energy converter.
As a new developer striving to improve wave energy capture the WavePOD consortium approach to hydraulic PTO development is a great bonus since hydrodynamic expertise in wave-body interaction is quite different from that for hydraulic systems.”