UK Continues Energy Efforts into the Ocean

A new chapter in the UK’s search for a sustainable future has opened with the announcement of two new proposals for ocean energy research projects. One is an on-site wave energy project tapping the ocean’s powerful swells as they make landfall, and the other, when completed, is a research center dedicated to energy research.

The wave power project would be located at Siadar on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The plan is a joint project between npower renewables1, one of the UK’s largest renewable energy companies, and Wavegen2, a wave power company based in Inverness, owned entirely by the hydro equipment supplier Voith Siemens Hydro since 2005. The development would consist of building a new breakwater similar in appearance to those frequently used around the UK coastline for the provision of harbor facilities. Where this breakwater differs is that, if developed, it would have a wave energy project built into it. The companies involved say the location has fantastic potential if obstacles can be overcome — the most significant of which is the availability of a connection to the electricity grid. Once operational, the project would harness power from the Atlantic’s waves to generate up to 3 megawatts (MW) of electricity. “So much has been said about using wave power to generate electricity, and those words are now beginning to be turned into actions,” said Bill Langley, Marine Development Engineer at npower renewables The Siadar project could be the gateway to the best wave resource in the UK and, if developed, would be a very tangible step toward marine renewables taking their place at the energy table, the release states. In tempering his excitement with the challenges to the project, Langley acknowledged, “It should be recognized that as with any such development, there are some major hurdles to be overcome — the most significant being whether a grid connection will be available in time. Meeting this challenge will take lots of work from us, from Government and from the electrical grid companies, but we are confident that if we all start now, a connection will be possible and the full potential of this project will be realized.” The next step for the project is a feasibility study, which will last about six months. Initial studies will take place in the coming weeks that will involve an on-site survey of the sea bed and investigation of the local wave resource. These will enable the project to be simulated at Wavegen’s tank testing facilities in Inverness, in order to provide a more accurate understanding of the likely energy output of the scheme. The feasibility study will also involve some engineering design work to determine the precise size, location and cost of the project, and some preliminary planning and environmental work. JOULE CENTER FOR ENERGY RESEARCH [Manchester, UK] In a separate UK ocean energy development, the Joule Center for Energy Research was unveiled at the University of Manchester, where it will provide a focal point for energy research in northwestern UK and will support the work of the country’s Northwest Energy Council. The Center, which is a partnership between universities in the Northwest, regional industry, commerce and energy users, is funded with GBP 10 million by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA). Its aim is to pioneer low-carbon technologies, specifically new wave, tidal and micro-hydro technologies. It will also focus on developing a host of new ‘smart’ technologies aimed at improving energy efficiency in the home and for industry. “Our aim is to create an internationally leading energy research center in England’s North West which will significantly increase the region’s research capacity and activity in the areas of new sustainable energy technologies, supporting science and technology, energy efficiency, demand-side management and integrated assessment of the energy system,” said Professor Nick Jenkins, Director of the Center. Proposals are invited that address any aspect of technical energy demand reduction in the industrial and built environments. The Center will consider proposals on wider aspects of energy demand reduction (e.g., behavioral change) but applicants must clarify how their proposal is of particular benefit to the North West. Applications are also invited for “Seed Corn” Grants, which are intended to stimulate new areas of research and it is expected that they will lead on to major projects funded by others. These may be for research on any aspect of energy and can last for up to one year. The maximum budget per grant is GBP 50,000, however it is anticipated that most proposals will be in the range of GBP 10,000 to 30,000. The total budget for “Seed Corn” Grants in this second call will be approximately GBP 100,000.
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