New UK centre to test wave-powered electric generation systems

The UK’s Euro-seas Engineering Services & Testing Ltd. (EEST) said it is building a large scale facility for evaluating and commercializing wave-powered electricity generation systems.

EEST is a joint venture between CAPCIS Ltd. and Hedley Purvis Ltd. formed in 1999. EEST, with the support of local and national government, European funds, and local industry plan to create the UK’s National Marine and Renewable Energy Centre (MAREC).

With initial funding from the Regional Development Agency for the North East of England, the center is based within the Port of Blyth on England’s Northeast coast, adjacent to the UK’s first, recently commissioned, offshore wind farm.

In the next 2 months EEST will be commissioning UK’s largest ever wave generator. The wave maker is being supplied by Edinburgh Designs Ltd. and will be installed into one of the three converted dry dock basins on the Blyth site, making it one of the longest and deepest 3D wave tanks in the world.

The facility will be capable of generating waves up to 1 m high at 0.25-0.3s frequencies. State-of-the-art software will create waves that simulate complex offshore sea conditions, including extreme waves. Uniquely the facility will be able to provide deep waves with water depths up to 8 m to evaluate mooring technologies, said Douglas Rogers, control and systems engineer, Edinburgh Designs Ltd.

Rogers said the equipment will be capable of generating over 30 kw of continuous wave power in the lagoon thanks to the 500 kg of force applied at the top of each of the eight paddles. The tank is expected to run continuously with minimal supervision for a week or longer, which should be particularly useful for development of coastal defense systems, he said.

The site has already begun to generate interest ahead of its opening. Newcastle University has committed to use the facility for large scale marine and civil engineering research. The Marine Renewable Energy Association, or SEAPOWER said the new wave power capability at Blyth is a major step in fulfilling one of it main goals, the establishment of a national wave and current test center.

Discussions are also ongoing with a number of companies interested in using the site for development of flood defenses, renewable energy devices, and for the investigation of scouring damage on bridge structures, EEST said.

The wide tank at Edinburgh University is due to be demolished Aug. 1. Engineering design professor Stephen Salter said the new tank is important for continuing research, particularly proposed wind and wave power structures and for safe training of access crews.

The new wave tank at EEST is needed for testing offshore power generation systems to improve confidence before progressing to full-scale prototypes, he said. Salter said as soon as the facility is commissioned his group will use it to test a new Pelamis model and its mooring systems.

Commercial power generation from renewable sources is still in its infancy. The UK government has funded ௿½100 million worth of research and development into the next stage of renewable energy technology and has set a target to meet 10% (18% in Scotland) of electricity demand by 2010 from renewable sources.

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