The FloWave Marine Energy Facility at the University of Edinburgh. Photo: Jane Barlow.
Two universities in the UK plan to install a prototype wave energy converter in the North Sea.
The MU-EDRIVE project is part of eight schemes funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation. It is a collaboration between Dr. Serkan Turkman and Professor Jeff Neasham at Newcastle University and Professor Markus Mueller from the University of Edinburgh and aims to demonstrate how to upscale all electric drive trains for wave energy converters.
The project is led by Newcastle University’s Dr. Nick Baker, who said: “With regards to achieving the ambitious goal of net zero by 2050, it is essential to look at the energy system as a whole. Wave energy originates from solar energy as the sun heats the land, the land heats the air to create wind and wind creates waves. Wave energy can therefore be considered as ‘energy dense’ and could be a significant factor in moving away from traditional energy sources.”
The Newcastle team will next year install a generator and power converter to a buoy mounted 3 km off the Northumberland coast at Blyth for a 12-month period. Once installed, the prototype wave energy converter will provide vital operational data while testing the newest corrosion and anti-fouling technologies which will progress the understanding of the robustness of wave energy converters in situ.
The Edinburgh team will design, build and test a magnetic gear in partnership with Edinburgh-headquartered Mocean Energy to demonstrate upscaling of electrical power take off systems.
The project will also show how “marinization” and magnetic gearing technology can be scaled up to larger power levels and integrated more fully into wave energy converters.
Wave energy is the next offshore wind
“The upscaling aim of the MU-EDRIVE project will help to reduce costs of energy production as devices get larger, making the energy both easier and more affordable for access and usage,” said Dr. Baker, who is reader in emerging electrical machines and senior lecturer at Newcastle University. “It’s hard to know what a wave energy device will look like in ten years’ time. Thinking back to ten years ago, offshore wind turbine technologies were in their infancy – this could be the same for wave energy now.”
Recent government recognition in the UK has led to a surge in skills and advanced technology across the power electronics machines and drives sectors, which Dr. Baker said is “the natural pathway is to apply these skills to the marine energy sector.”
He added that knowledge from the electrification of the automotive industry, such as developing motors and generators, could easily transfer into the marine energy market.