Defence firm BAE Systems has joined forces with wave energy developer Aquamarine Power on a £1 million project to enable large-scale commercial production of Aquamarine’s Oyster wave energy converter.
The device – a buoyant hinged flap – attaches to the seabed and moves backwards and forwards in the nearshore waves, pumping high pressure water onshore to drive a hydro-electric turbine, which then generates electricity for the National Grid. The device is designed to be installed at around 10 metres depth, 0.5km from shore.
Aquamarine Power has already its Oyster 1 demonstration device at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, Scotland, where it generates electricity which is transmitted to the National Grid to power homes in the local area. It is estimated that a farm of 20 next generation Oyster 2 devices will generate enough energy to power more than 12,000 homes.
Under the partnership, engineers at BAE Systems usually involved in the design, repair and maintenance of complex naval systems, will work with Aquamarine Power to develop an intelligent diagnostic system and remote ballasting mechanism. The aim of the collaboration is to drive down maintenance costs and help to maximise energy production, paving the way for the technology to be rolled out on a commercial scale.
Kevin McLeod, engineering director at BAE Systems’ Surface Ships division, said: “This is an opportunity for us to apply skills developed in naval design and the management of large complex maritime engineering programmes to support the emerging marine energy industry.”
BAE Systems is already involved in a number of initiatives to support the renewable energy sector. Its engineers designed the electrical distribution system for the largest land-based wind farm in Europe at Whitelee and BAE Systems is also working with partners to develop a deepwater offshore windfarm design.
Martin McAdam, Aquamarine Power’s chief executive, said: “The Oyster system works well. Our next step is to drive down the cost of electricity generated from wave power through improvements in Oyster reliability and reduced maintenance costs.”
The project has funded by a Technology Strategy Board grant worth £450,000, which the partners have match-funded, to support a 30 month research, development and demonstration project.