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First stage deployment of Oyster wave energy converter complete

Oyster, a near shore wave energy converter being developed by Aquamarine Power, has completed the first phase of its deployment at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) at Billia Croo in Orkney, Scotland.

The 194-tonne full-scale device was lowered onto its seabed sub frame and bolted into place. The next step will be to connect the Oyster to sub-sea pipelines, which will deliver high pressure fresh water to an onshore turbine ahead of grid connection and sea trials later this year.

The device is still a number of years away from commercial operation but the CEO of Aquamarine Power, Martin McAdam told renewable energy focus that the current aim of the company is to make the technology commercially available by 2014.

According to McAdam, by 2014 when the device is expected to become commercially available, its costs could compete with offshore wind under the current ROC regime. A change in ROC banding was introduced by the Scottish Government earlier this year to give wave and tidal developers the opportunity to compete with wind, until their technologies become more mature and the cost per KWh reduces further to a rate comparable to offshore wind.

What makes a wave energy converter efficient and successful is its ability to survive harsh, stormy weather. Aquamarine’s Oyster, being bolted down to the sea bed, moves forward and backward with the tide, only moving further with larger waves. This characteristic makes the device “intrinsically survivable”, says McAdam, setting it apart from its contemporaries.

Another benefit of Oyster is its simplicity, he continues. There are minimal moving parts and all electrical components are onshore, making it robust and easy to maintain.

Oyster is designed to capture the energy found in near shore waves up to depths of 10 to 12 metres. A commercial farm of just 20 devices (10MW) could provide renewable energy to a town of around 6,500 homes. The Scottish Government estimates there are 14GW of wave energy around Scotland’s shores and 7.5 GW of tidal. McAdam estimates that his own technology could reach a total global installed capacity of 20GW.

Aquamarine Power has received significant funding and support from Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Technology Strategy Board, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Scottish Government. In 2007, Aquamarine Power joined forces with Scottish & Southern Energy subsidiary, Renewable Technology Ventures securing a £6.3m investment from SSE and a further £1.5m from Sigma Capital Group plc.

McAdam commented, “Completion of this milestone is a giant leap for the company and for the marine energy industry in general. Generating electricity, however, will be the ultimate test, and we are confident we will deliver power to the national grid by the end of the year.”

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