Two of the world’s leading ocean energy test centres have joined forces in a ground-breaking project to re-create scaled versions of Scotland North Sea and Atlantic oceans in an indoor laboratory in central Edinburgh.
EMEC, the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, and FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility at Edinburgh university first began working together in 2012 to share their expertise in ocean and laboratory testing.
Now they have kicked off an ambitious programme to use real-life ocean data from EMEC to replicate Orkney’s seas in the FloWave tank.
FloWave provides real-sea conditions in central Edinburgh, in all weathers and through all 12 months of the year in its indoor 25 metre circular test tank.
With scale waves greater than 24m, currents faster than 14 knots, and a huge test area equivalent to more than 2 km2 of ocean, the FloWave tank is also large enough for testing larger devices up to 1/10th scale.
Stuart Brown, Chief Executive, FloWave, said: “Testing full-scale ocean energy technologies at sea can be an expensive and risky business.
“The closer you can replicate real ocean conditions in the laboratory, the better you can refine your prototype and validate how it might perform – before testing part-scale or full-scale devices at sea.
“To date, test tanks have only been able to generate waves or tidal flows – but anyone who has been to Orkney will know, Scotland’s oceans are much more complex and usually combine both. At FloWave our unique facility gives us the ability to create both waves and tidal currents at the same time.
“This is similar to the way an airliner would be tested in a wind tunnel during development – and is a real world-first for the ocean energy sector.
“Ocean technology developers now have a clear pathway from the computer to the laboratory to EMEC and, if required, back to FloWave again.”
Through the initiative, EMEC is providing a wealth of data to FloWave – gathered over years by ‘Waverider’ buoys, radar and ADCPs (acoustic Doppler current profilers) – which FloWave is using to develop accurate models to replicate the complex sea states encountered in Orkney as closely as possible.
This work is being led by research engineer Sam Draycott, now in the third year of a four year industrial doctorate in offshore renewable energy at FloWave.
Neil Kermode, Managing Director, EMEC, added: “EMEC is purpose-built for sea trials with ready made test facilities, but working offshore can be expensive. That’s why it makes perfect sense to utilise the unique capabilities of FloWave to develop representative EMEC conditions in the test tank.
“By sharing this data, we will help accelerate learning from lab to sea and back again, and enable the UK to stay at the very forefront of this industry as it continues to mature.”