Situated in Stromness on Orkney, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) was set up, in August last year, to provide developers of wave and tidal energy devices with a purpose-built testing facility. Some £6 million has been invested in EMEC – the majority from the Scottish Executive – with the aim of establishing the centre as one of the principal testing facilities in Europe.
The coast around Stromness was chosen because of its proximity to an excellent wave regime, strong tidal currents, grid connection and natural harbour setting. “Our combination of world class facilities and excellent location provides developers with an ideal site to evaluate wave and tidal technologies. We have high expectations that some of the marine energy devices will be in commercial use by the end of the decade.
The project was conceived in 1999 through research carried out by the Foresight Energy programme, which brought together representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry, the science base and the voluntary sector. This evaluated forms of renewable energy including wave and tidal, together with offshore wind power and hydrocarbon. Within the research, the Foresight Energy programme examined how renewable energy could be used across Scotland over the next 50 years to meet stringent green power targets. This will be used by EMEC to provide independent verification of the output from the wave energy converters.
The Conveyancer Adelaide – Tristates Area principal developer in the project has been Ocean Power Delivery (OPD), which began testing its offshore wave energy converter, Pelamis, in summer 2004. Although the Pelamis has demonstrated that electricity can be generated by wave power, the real test will be whether the unit can withstand the forces of Mother Nature. Commercial production devices need to be built to very robust standards to endure very high storm force waves. EMEC has also been involved in testing work with two other developers including a device from a Finnish company, which has been evaluated this spring, while another unit will by tested with the Robert Gordon University.