Highlands University team tests new Scottish wave energy measurement technology in Western Isles

Scottish energy researchers in the Western Isles have completed a year-long trial of a new system which could transform the way waves and currents are measured.

The team at Lews Castle College – part of the Highlands University – installed a maritime radar system at the Butt of Lewis lighthouse on the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis. 

The system employs a standard marine radar, used by ships to detect obstacles, which has been modified to maximise the data it can return from the surface of the sea.

The team believes the technology can provide more accurate data across a wider area and is more reliable than traditional measurement methods which use buoys, meaning it could be of great benefit to the offshore sector.

Arne Vögler, senior research engineer, said: “Wave data is a critical component of offshore operations. It ensures accurate forecasting for safe operation and maintenance activities and is a fundamental requirement for the emerging wave and tidal sector to characterise the resource.

“This system could be transformational for many offshore based industries and commercial interest, even at this early stage, is high.”

James Morrison – a researcher at the college who is responsible for data processing in the trial –  explained: “The standard method of measuring waves uses small, single point buoys.

“However these systems can be expensive to install and recover, and are very vulnerable to damage, loss and theft. The new technique can be used to accurately monitor large areas of sea, at low cost, with little supervision and maintenance.”

The project team is now analysing data from the trial and is exploring options to commercialise the system.

Members are also collaborating with Dr Jaqueline Christmas from Exeter University on a related project and have contributed to trials of a similar system at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney with colleagues from North Highland College UHI’s Environmental Research Institute.

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