Aquamarine Power is a wave energy company which has developed an innovative hydro-electric wave energy converter, known as Oyster. The first full-scale demonstrator device was installed at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney in summer 2009.
With head offices in Edinburgh, and further operations in Orkney and Northern Ireland, Aquamarine Power’s goal is to deliver large-scale wave energy projects, using its technology to help tackle climate change.
The marine energy industry represents a new and exciting area of renewable energy. If the potential of technologies like Oyster is realised, the World Energy Council (2007) predicts that the total size of the exploitable global wave energy resource is as high as 2000TWh/year. With approximately 47 per cent of the EU’s wave resource (Carbon Trust 2004), the UK has a huge opportunity to become a world leader in the marine energy industry.
The Business Challenge
The company recognised that in order to achieve commercialisation of wave energy, it was essential to increase the economic viability of the Oyster device and a project was initiated to investigate the effect of using alternative materials in both the Oyster device itself and the sub-frame on which it sits.
Interface – the knowledge connection for business – introduced the firm to Dr John Chick at the University of Edinburgh, which is globally recognised for its achievements in research and development of wave energy technology. Based in the School of Engineering, Dr Chick is a key member of the Institute for Energy Systems (IES). He has been involved in research projects involving carbon and energy audits of a range of renewable energy converters, including wave energy devices.
Through the partnership with Edinburgh University, Aquamarine had access to a highly qualified and experienced academic resource including a PhD student who is now in full time employment with the company.
Being a small and relatively young company in a new and high risk industry, Aquamarine’s limited resources were significantly stretched. The partnership meant that the student could perform a range or work, including design development and structural analysis in alternative materials, including life cycle energy accounting.
Aquamarine’s commercial development assistant, Helen Ansell, comments: “Having a PhD student focus on this project, with the support from highly experienced academics at Edinburgh University, provided Aquamarine with an invaluable opportunity to access a dedicated and highly intellectual resource for the exploration of a key issue in the commercialisation of wave power technology over the next few years.”
The aim of the research was to reduce the cost of Oyster over its lifetime, spanning: material production device and sub-frame fabrication, installation, operation and decommissioning. As such, research and analysis took into account a number of parameters including cost, corrosion resistance in marine environments, survivability, fatigue, maintainability and recyclability.
The work also included a study of alternative materials and their affect on energy use and CO2 emissions over the lifetime of the device. For additional expertise on structural analysis and wave loading, Dr Chick recommended involving Dr Vengatesan Venugopal, also from IES.
Dr Venugopal brought invaluable research experience in wave energy to the project, particularly in numerical and physical wave modelling, simulation of wave structure interaction for offshore/coastal environments, wave and current loadings on offshore structures, hydrodynamics and vessel/mooring response.
Find out more about Aquamarine Power here.