Queen's University Belfast has helped the global wave energy industry take a major stride forward with the launch of the world's largest working hydro-electric wave energy device by Aquamarine Power Ltd.
Known as Oyster, the device has been officially launched by Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond MP, MSP at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney.
It is currently the world's only hydro-electric wave energy device producing power and is now producing power by pumping high pressure water to its onshore hydro-electric turbine. This will be fed into the National Grid to power homes in Orkney and beyond. A farm of 20 Oysters would provide enough energy to power 9,000 three bedroom family homes.
Oyster was first conceived out of work funded by an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research grant to Queen's between 2002 and 2004, to develop surging power-wave devices.
Professor Trevor Whittaker from Queen's School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering was the principal investigator and was supported by Dr Matt Folley. Aquamarine Power Ltd was formed by a Scottish entrepreneur specifically to develop the technology. Today there is a joint agreement which results in Queen's undertaking all the hydrodynamic testing for Aquamarine.
Professor Whittaker said: "The concept of Oyster came about through research in our wave-tank facility at Queen's. The launch of Oyster is both a major landmark in terms of carbon-free sustainable energy production and a proud day for Queen's University Belfast, which already has a reputation as being one of the leading wave-power research groups in the world. In fact Oyster is the third prototype demonstration wave power project which the team at Queen's has instigated in the past 20 years.
"Devices such as these have the power to revolutionise the world's energy industry and help combat climate change. And we aren't stopping with Oyster. We are continuing to work with our partners in Aquamarine Power and the EMEC to develop the next generation of Oyster, by providing testing opportunities at Queen's large wave tanks facility in Portaferry which is part-funded through the University's Institute for a Sustainable World."
The marine energy industry could provide as many as 12,500 jobs, contributing £2.5 billion to the UK economy by 2020. Marine energy such as that produced by Oyster has the potential to meet up to 20 per cent of the UK's energy demands.
Speaking at the launch of Oyster, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond MP, MSP said: "I'm delighted to see first-hand the full-scale Oyster now installed and operating offshore. This is a key milestone for Scotland's marine renewables sector.
"Scotland's potential renewables capacity is estimated to be around 60GW. Our waters hold around ten per cent of Europe's wave power potential and as much as a quarter of its tidal power potential. The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) provides world-leading test facilities for Aquamarine and other companies to develop the technology needed to harness this huge untapped potential.
"I am delighted to confirm further R&D funding of almost £1m to Aquamarine Power for the development of Oyster 2, which could be installed within two years. Through our investments and initiatives such as the Saltire Prize, the Scottish Government is working to ensure we capitalise on our rich natural resources, to meet our ambitious climate change targets, to create more high-skilled green jobs and to make a substantial contribution to one of the most pressing global challenges."
Martin McAdam, Chief Executive Officer of Aquamarine Power, said: "This is a fantastic day for the wave energy industry and for Aquamarine Power. We have proved what we always believed -- that wave energy can produce sustainable zero-emission electricity to power our homes. The UK has one of the best wave resources in the world. Now it also has the best technology.
"The announcement of nearly £1 million Scottish Enterprise funding is very welcome and will enable Aquamarine Power to attract further inward investment for the successful development of the next-generation commercial-scale Oyster. This is exactly the kind of support the industry needs. With continued support of this nature we can help decarbonise our electricity supply, and build a major, world-beating industry here in the UK."
Neil Kermode, Managing Director of EMEC said: "EMEC are delighted to see Oyster installed, running and on test. It is a tribute to both the Aquamarine Power team for their work, and also to the vision of the public sector in setting EMEC up in the first place to help developers get into the water as efficiently as possible. I look forward to Oyster being joined by many more machines in the coming years."
The Oyster launch took place at EMEC's Billia Croo site near Stromness, where the device was installed this summer.
Videos of Oyster can be found at www.youtube.com/aquamarinepowerltd
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