Future Energy

24 Mar 2021

UK Universities to Unlock Wave Power Potential

24 Mar 2021  by   

Several UK universities are taking part in eight new projects to develop and test new wave energy technologies.

[Image: ORE Catapult]

The research is supported by a £7.5m investment by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

These projects will build on the UK’s role in marine wave energy to overcome challenges to devices that capture the energy generated by waves and convert it into a renewable source of electricity.

Wider deployment of wave energy converters (WECs) is hampered by challenges such as their ability to survive in extreme weather conditions and their efficiency.

The eight projects will adopt innovative new approaches to overcoming these challenges, including taking inspiration from the fins of marine animals to design flexible WECs that can operate under extreme conditions.

Other projects will test the performance of WECs through ocean-based trials and develop the models needed to assess how they cope with conditions such as storm waves.

Energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Our coastline and the power of the seas around us offers huge potential for clean renewable energy that can help us meet commitments to end our contribution to climate change by 2050.

“There are certainly unique challenges in harnessing the power of the marine environment and it is exciting to see how these projects can help us make the most of our natural resources in a cleaner greener future.”

Projects include MoorWEC (Mooring analysis and design for offshore WEC survivability and fatigue), led by Peter Stansby at the University of Manchester.

The project, which has secured a £997,000 grant from the EPSRC, will model the impact of waves on various mooring options to generate key information and efficient modelling methods to aid the design of resilient future WECs.

Another project is BASM-WEC (Bionic Adaptive Stretchable Materials for Wave Energy Converters), led by Qing Xiao at the University of Strathclyde, which has won an EPSRC grant of £975,000.

The project will explore whether flexible materials inspired by the fins and other body parts of aquatic animals could be used in WECs.

Using such materials, the shape of which changes depending on the load applied to it, could help to overcome challenges to the commercialisation of existing WECs which can exhibit low-performance efficiency and be vulnerable under harsh sea conditions.

In another project, Flexible Responsive Systems in Wave Energy, the focus will be on assessing the performance of WECs developed using deformable materials, such as flexible fabrics, which could improve performance, survivability, reliability and reduce costs.

It will test these flexible systems and their ability to survive storm waves through both wave basin experiments and numerical modelling.

Deborah Greaves, at the University of Plymouth is leading the project, which has been awarded an EPSRC grant of £984,000.

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