COMMENT: Scottish Energy Minister sinks another £3m into rust-free sea-surface power convertors

SEE COMMENT: At foot below

A total of 10  wave energy development projects have been awarded £3 million by Wave Energy Scotland –  the quango-within-a-quango-within-yet-another-quango set up by the minority SNP government to rescue potentially valuable intellectual property from financially disappearing with the recent collapse of Pelamis Wave Power and other surface-based ocean wave power prototypes.

The projects, devised by individual companies and partnerships, will explore the potential of different materials and processes in the production of wave energy converters – the engineering prototypes that actually convert ocean waves into electricity.

Currently these devices are predominantly made from steel, which is strong and durable but costly and susceptible to corrosion – a common factor which exposes all surface-based ocean power machines to immense environmental and operational risk.

In contrast, this surface-based risk from incessant sea-wave pounding-to-destruction has been successfully avoided by Atlantis Resources – the flourishing private-sector subsea tidal power Colossus which is building an ‘under water power station’ the size of the now-shut coal-fired Longannet and Cockenzie power stations  in the Pentland Firth off Caithness.

So much so, that when the Scot-Govt. comes to publishing its ‘new’ Scottish Energy Strategy next month, it will – to paraphrase the words of the Father of Modern British Science, Sir Isaac Newton who ‘invented’ gravity’ – be standing on the (giant, renewable energy) shoulders of Atlantis Resources.

Alternative materials to steel wave energy convertors have not yet been sufficiently investigated for their longevity in harsh marine conditions. Finding a material that works well in the sea and is cheaper to produce will increase commercial viability of converters.

Accordingly, the Scottish wave energy quango** (within a quango-within-yet-another quango)  funded Structural Materials and Manufacturing Process project will investigate the use of materials such as rubbers, plastics, concrete or combinations of these to build wave energy converters, and then test how well they survive in different sea conditions

This latest announcement from WES brings the quango’s total investment in wave energy development to £15 million across 51 projects in than two years.

Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse explained: “Continued innovation is vital in emerging renewable technologies such as wave energy. This funding could result in longer lasting wave converters that are better able to harness the power of the sea and more efficiently turn it into renewable energy.

“Wave energy has great potential to contribute to Scotland’s energy supply and that of the UK and EU and I am aware of the strong interest in the technology in international markets beyond the EU too. If we are able to maximise the economic potential of this important energy resource, there are great opportunities to generate exports to the rest of the world where Scotland is, rightly seen as being at the forefront of the development of the sector.”

A Wave Energy Scotland spokeswoman added: We were delighted with the huge response to our call for SMMP projects, with many new organisations submitting applications. The successful projects present a superb opportunity to bring further skills and experience that can be shared with others in the WES programmes and make further progress towards commercialising the wave energy sector.”


** Scottish Wave Energy is a quango which reports – in a series of corporate hierarchy of ‘Russian dolls’ – to another quango, Highlands Enterprise, which in turn, is part of  another quango, Scottish Enterprise, which in turn, is under a live Scot-Govt review as being (questionably) the best and most tax-payer cost-effective way of  using Scottish taxpayers’ money to jump-start private-sector economic development by the Scottish Energy and Scottish Trade & Industry Ministers (ie Paul Wheelhouse and Keith Brown, MSPs)

All three quangoes work to achieve the same economic development aims – but actively compete against each other in selecting which companies and technologies to support with Scottish taxpayers’ cash.

And there is no apparent cross-sharing of corporate intelligence to avoid duplication of efforts – and this cross-entanglement and duplication of efforts is not solely confined to renewable energies.

Indeed, Scottish Energy News knows, for example, of specific instances where one quango has deployed state aid (ie Scottish taxpayers’ money) in support of companies in the oil and gas sector, which could, or would have been – equally well supported by other Scottish state agencies – such as the Aberdeen-based Oil and Gas Innovation Centre (OGIC) – and/or UK-funded British Government bodies (such as Robert Gordon and Aberdeen universities) as well as the Oil and Gas Authority UK regulator; to say nothing of the possible enthusiastic support from private-sector organisations such as the Aberdeen-based Subsea UK and / or other WOG associations in the wind, oil and gas industry sectors – never mind Sir Ian Wood’s ONE North East public-private state-ish economic development quango..)

Some Insightful Insiders in some of these bodies are deeply concerned about this overlap, duplication and ‘Dog’s Dinner of the Quangos’.

They must remain anonymous – for obvious reasons. But their concerns over duplication and lack of value for formal and/or informal state-public-private quangos must be heeded.

Are ye listening, Scottish Energy Minister and UK Energy Minister (respectively Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, and Greg Clark, MP)?

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