Inverness-based wave energy firm go under
Voith Hydro has decided to shut down its wave power business in Inverness, retreating to the company’s engineering centre in Heidenheim, Germany. Voith were the creators of the first ever wave power station in Scotland, the LIMPET on Islay.
A company spokesman said “The projects which we have put in practice have shown that this technology works. What is missing is a positive investment climate for wave power globally. Voith will re-intensify its wave power station activities as soon as the market situation is appropriate and such operations appear commercially beneficial”.
This follows the cancellation of Voight’s wave energy project at Siadar on the West coast of Lewis in December. The cancellation was blamed on lack of funding and uncertainty surrounding the installation of the necessary HVDC interconnector across the Minch to allow renewable electricity generated in the Western Isles to flow into the grid.
This blog predicts that this will not be the last renewables opportunity lost in Scotland because of the ongoing delays in implementing the necessary grid upgrades.
Article by Ally Tibbitt, Greener Leith
And looking into the future, there’s also a lot of speculation around what will happen next on the docks – with folk still waiting to see if Gamesa will actually sign up to build a huge marine wind turbine factory that will employ hundreds more folk on the docks who will be making stuff once again.
But right now, it’s perhaps easy for people to forget that in that huge blue shed inside the security perimeter of the docks there are about 50 people working – some around the clock – on another bit of world leading, award winning, marine technology.
No they’re not building boats – and they’re not building wind turbines - they’re building these giant red wave energy devices . . .
These devices, designed and built by a firm called Pelamis, are big, and as this cutaway below shows, they’ve got some serious kit inside them too.
Each wave energy device is made up of a series of these floating sections, and as the waves pass the machine the ‘sea snake’ flexes. By using some very clever hydraulics, that flexing motion is converted into a continuous electricity output.
Each sea snake can produce a maximum of about 750Kw but averaged over time this means each one produces enough electricity for about 500 houses – depending on where you put it.
At the moment the firm has only two development machines in the water – in Orkney – but there are big plans for the years ahead, with plans in the pipeline for a series of larger sites in the powerful seas around Orkney, Shetland, The Hebrides and the north of Scotland.
Over the festive period Deborah Smith, who works as the Marketing Coordinator for the company, invited Greener Leith to visit the factory. There she explained the scale of the firm and it’s connection with Leith:
“The company was founded in 1988, as a result of a Phd from Edinburgh University. Richard Yemm is our founder and it was his Phd that explored the principles of the device and after he finished he decided to do something practical about it. And so today he’s the Commercial Director and in a way it will always be his baby really.
“Now there’s between 45 and 50 people employed here in Leith. This is where we manufacture and it’s also our design headquarters so when we’re manufacturing there are a few more people on site typically, because we do a lot of the assembly work ourselves.
“At the moment we have a team of about eight people up on Orkney – an operations and maintenance team – and amongst them there is a mixture of quite a few locals and people who have moved up there especially.
“In fact I think we’re the second biggest employer on Hoy,” she adds, laughing.
“We’ve got two demonstrator machines in Orkney. There’s the European Marine Energy Centre there which is a sort of test centre for full scale marine devices – so there’s both wave and tidal power there.
“We have two different machines, which are for two different utility customers, E.On and Scottish Power Renewables – each of them actually bought a Pelamis machine for testing – which is quite exciting for us, because we were the first company in the sector to have done that.
“We’ve got two different utilities, who are working together in tandem, and they’re doing this because they’ve each got 50MW wave farms which are under development at the moment, both off the coast of Orkney.”
The purpose of the two second generation P2 machines that are in the water now is to test the design and fine tune it so that the machines operate as efficiently as possible before the firm scales up to it’s first two commercial scale wave farms, with more projects planned as well.
You might be surprised to learn that the machines are monitored 24 hours a day from a control room in Leith. There engineers are busy trying to work out the best way to tweak the control systems inside the devices so that they generate the most power under different weather conditions.
Inside the Pelamis control room engineers monitor the test machines
Deborah said: “At the moment the P2’s generate up to 750KW, but there’s a potential for future production machines to scale up to 1MW. So we’d be looking at 10 machines for a 10MW wave farm.”
“Orkney has a good wave resource, but there are also a few other areas around Scotland which are potentially even better. As well as the two Orkney projects, we’ve got a project off the west coast of the Western Isles and one in Shetland as well.
“The project in Shetland is a joint project with Vatenfall, the Swedish Utility firm.
“Initially we’re working on smaller first targets, as the E.on and Scottish Power projects are still in development, so we’re looking at a few years yet before they’re implemented fully – it’s the same with all our projects as well.”
“The testing that we’re doing with the E.On and the Scottish Power machines is separate really to the bigger projects, but the testing itself is going very well.”
The main goal of the firm is to scale up production and refine their designs so that the Pelamis wave power machines become cost competitive with marine wind power.
And whilst the long term vision for the firm seems clear, we were keen to find out whether there would be any room left on the docks for Pelamis if Gamesa and their huge wind turbine factory turn up,
Deborah said: “At the moment our current plan is to stay in Leith, for a while at least. There’s no plans to move elsewhere. We will be building another machine here at some point next year, and that’s going to go up to Orkney, for testing in 2014.
“So the next machine will certainly be built in Leith, and it’s likely that the machines for the first commercial scale wave farms will be built here – if not 100% – at least the power take off units which is the bit that goes inside the power module – the bit that essentially generates the electricity.
And she added that the firm is actually really keen to stay in Leith, with staff already working on plans to build 10 machines a year from the Port:
“At the moment we can build one machine here, and there are potential plans for us to build 10 machines over the course of year from this facility. This is obviously something we’re looking at in quite a lot of detail at them moment, because we’ve got projects that are hoping to begin construction from 2015/2016 and that’s actually not that far away.
“So there’s a lot of planning going on right now looking at how we can mass produce Pelamis machines from Leith, and obviously we’re a local company with good ties here in terms of suppliers, and wider business relationships. We would love to stay in Leith and so it’s definitely possible.”
“We’ve got the systems in place so we can just build part of them here, and part of them somewhere else, and actually we’ve still got a bit of room to grow here from a manufacturing point of view. When we’re only building one machine at a time, there’s certainly unused space in the shed.”
She also suggested that whilst it might be hard for Pelamis and Gamesa to work together on munfacturing they may get some benefit from any improved port facilities that are built in Leith if Gamesa do sign on the dotted line with Forth Ports.
“Gamesa are probably looking for their own space – so I don’t know how much interaction there would be in terms of sharing manufacturing space. But in terms of looking at the port facilities here, the more renewables firms that are here the chances are the better they will get, so we might well get a benefit from that.”
You can find out more about Pelamis and how their machines work by visiting their website at www.pelamis.com
This video shows the development of a Pelamis wave energy converter from the manufacturing bay to installation at sea. This machine was built for E.ON and is the second generation Pelamis design, a P2.
The E.ON Pelamis machine is currently undergoing pre-commercial demonstration at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. Currently being tested as part of a gradual work-up programme, the results of this machine’s test phase will underpin larger commercial projects currently under development by E.ON off the coast of Orkney.
For more information see: http://www.pelamiswave.com/our-projects/project/1/E.ON-at-EMEC
The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) Ltd has been recognised for its innovative infrastructure and economic impact at regional and national level at two prestigious award ceremonies held last week.
The ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers) President’s Award for Energy Infrastructure was presented to EMEC at the British Construction Industry Awards in London on Wednesday, October 10.
This new award recognises excellence in a chosen theme which this year ICE President Richard Coackley set as the generation, storage and delivery of energy.
The Centre was commended for its unrivalled test site facilities based in Orkney which enable 14 full-scale marine energy technologies to test simultaneously in some of the harshest wave and tidal conditions, as well as providing test sites situated in less challenging real sea conditions for smaller scale device testing.
Established in 2003, EMEC is still the only accredited, grid-connected, wave and tidal test centre for marine renewable energy in the world, and to date has successfully supported the deployment of more grid-connected marine energy devices than at any other single site in the world, having attracted developers from across the globe.
Commenting on the success, Neil Kermode, managing director of EMEC said: “This is excellent recognition for EMEC’s work and we are privileged to win an award of such calibre.
“We have faced many obstacles along the way – not least simply installing the infrastructure in the first place to enable our clients to hook up to the grid. But we have found ways to overcome these challenges, and this has allowed us to provide valuable feedback to the industry on how to install and operate safely in some of the harshest sea states on the planet.”
The judges were impressed by the successful partnerships that were established within this project and commented that it really is an international example of true knowledge leadership.
EMEC also scooped the accolade of Best Renewable Energy (Offshore) at the Energy North Awards in Inverness on Friday, October 12, for its role in the development of the burgeoning marine renewables industry in the Highland and Islands of Scotland.
Mr Kermode, added: “With the influx of developers coming to test their devices at EMEC, the marine renewable industry in Orkney is rapidly advancing.
“An extensive local supply chain is developing with around 250 people working in the sector in Orkney alone. The local authority is making significant investments in improving the port infrastructure across the Islands, and we are witnessing external private investment as well – for instance one developer has set up their manufacturing base in Stromness.
“Great vision was shown by those who supported the creation of EMEC and that has been rewarded with a steady stream of developers using the facilities to prove the commercial potential of their technologies. As a result, EMEC is now financially self-sufficient.”
With the 14 full-scale test berths now contracted, and demand continuing to rise, EMEC is currently exploring the possibility of expanding its pioneering test facilities, and is in the process of consulting with industry stakeholders and authorities.
Due to its unrivalled knowledge and experience in setting up and operating the world’s first and only wave and tidal test centre, EMEC is establishing key strategic alliances across the globe through provision of consultancy services, and is working closely with various countries including Japan, China, South Korea, the USA and Canada.
£7.9 million funding shared between five marine energy developers
Five marine energy developers will share £7.9 million funding to support the testing of new wave and tidal energy prototypes in the seas around Scotland.
The supports marks the second round of WATERS (Wave and Tidal Energy: Research, Development and Demonstration Support) funding, enabling Scottish developers and supply chain firms to remain at the forefront of the global marine energy market, an industry that could be worth £4 billion to Scotland’s economy by 2020.
The recipients of the funding, announced by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, include:
- Scotrenewables Tidal Power Limited:
awarded £1.2 million grant towards £9.2 million total project cost to design, construct and install a two-megawatt commercial scale floating tidal turbines
£617,000 towards £1.3 million cost of deployment of WaveNET demonstrator array comprising six SQUID 7.5kW wave energy converters
- AWS Ocean Energy:
£3.9 million towards £15.6 million cost to design, build and launch stages of a project to prove the AWS-III WEC at full scale
£1.4 million towards £4.9 million cost for building and testing of a full-scale, pre-commercial CoRMaT 500kW tidal turbine
- Oceanflow Development:
£750,000 towards £1.3 million cost for building and field-testing of quarter-scale prototype twin-turbine tidal energy converter, Evopod TE70