Marine Energy Hydropower Test Center Expanding Workforce as Demand Grows

A leading marine energy hydropower test center for wave and tidal energy technologies is expanding its workforce to meet the growing demands of companies developing devices that harness energy from the sea.

EMEC, the Orkney, Scotland-based European Marine Energy Centre, is gearing up for the arrival of more devices capable of generating electricity from waves or tidal currents, a Scottish Government economic development agency reported. EMEC operates the world’s first open-sea, grid-connected test facilities for prototype wave and tidal energy technologies.

Currently, Ireland’s OpenHydro is testing its tidal turbines at EMEC, while Scotland’s Aquamarine Power is testing its Oyster wave energy converter.

A world first was achieved when Edinburgh-based Pelamis Wave Power generated electricity to the National Grid from its deep water floating device at EMEC’s wave test site, EMEC reported. A second test site for tidal devices off the island of Eday has since been opened, with the first developer, Dublin-based OpenHydro, installed and generating electricity to the grid, the center reported.

Building on that experience, OpenHydro has now successfully deployed a commercial turbine at the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

With machines already undergoing sea trials at EMEC, five new staff are to be recruited to join the 13-strong team currently running the center, according to a report from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, a Scottish Government economic and community development agency.

EMEC Managing Director Neil Kermode said: “These are exciting times for us, with our facilities playing such an important role at the cutting edge of marine power development. We’ll see a number of very different technologies being tested in the waters around Orkney during 2010, clear evidence of rapid progress being made towards the commercial-scale harvesting of clean, sustainable energy from the seas around us.”

If ocean energy trial projects are successful in the next few years, the industry could represent a large source of renewable electricity generation capacity by 2025, according to a report by Pike Research.

Pike Research’s study, “Hydrokinetic and Ocean Energy”, assesses the market opportunity for five main types of marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies: ocean wave, tidal stream, river hydrokinetic, ocean current, and ocean thermal.

OpenHydro Chief Executive Officer James Ives said: “EMEC is recognized internationally as a center of excellence for marine energy development. In bringing our turbine to the stage of commercial deployment, OpenHydro also relied on the knowledge and expertise of a large number of organizations, businesses and support services in Orkney. These range from divers and specialist engineers, to environmental consultancies, hotels and providers of vessels large and small. It has meant a substantial investment on our part and demonstrates the positive impact tidal energy is already having on communities like Orkney.”

Atlantis Resources Corp. likewise has selected the waters off Scotland’s Orkney Islands as the proving ground for the world’s biggest tidal turbine.

Ocean Power Technologies signed an agreement with EMEC in 2008, enabling the wave energy developer to install a wave project at the test site. Recently, OPT began construction off Oregon’s coast on a commercial U.S. wave energy farm.

Ten of the current EMEC team were recruited from within Orkney. The center is now seeking to fill three research posts, with two more staff needed to join the operations team looking after electrical and testing activities.

Elaine Hanton, head of the energy team at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said “HIE continues to be a strong supporter of EMEC, and we are delighted that the team in Orkney is growing. These new additions will give EMEC the additional fire power needed to meet the research needs of an exciting and rapidly-growing industry.”

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