Saturday 1 October 2016

EU funds Irish research into wave energy device

Published 16/09/2015 | 02:30

An Oyster device being towed before installation
An Oyster device being towed before installation
Testing the device in Queens University Belfast
Oyster wave farm graphic

IRISH researchers have secured €800,000 in EU funding to help develop IT systems to capture power from wave energy devices.

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Professor John Ringwood from the Centre for Ocean Energy Research at Maynooth University secured the funding from the EU Horizon 2020 fund, which will involve three researchers working with Scottish company Aquamarine Power on its 'Oyster' device.

The machine is a buoyant, hinged flap moored to the seabed at depths of between 10 and 15 metres, around 500 metres offshore. The flap, which is largely underwater, pitches backwards and forwards in the nearshore waves, and the movement drives hydraulic pistons which push high pressure water onshore via a subsea pipeline.

This water drives a conventional hydro-electric turbine, which produces energy.

Professor Ringwood said research would focus on developing automated computer systems to maximise the amount of power captured, while also examining the geometry of the device to help produce as much power as possible, and to extend its lifespan.

"Essentially we're adding computer intelligence to the device, or a brain," he said. "The projected lifespan of these devices is about 20 years, and you don't want to be pulling them in for service every year. Ideally when you put it out there, you want to leave it alone with very little looking after.

"Aquamarine is very much at the forefront of development and they have been very generous in sharing their test data. The results of the project will be publicly disseminated."

Ireland is considered to have among the best wave energy resources in the world, with wave power highest off the west coast. But producing a device capable of withstanding Atlantic storms and the ravages of the ocean has proved problematic, especially in an environment which last winter produced waves of 21 metres in height.

The EU funding will allow three researchers, who will be hired in March, to focus on a number of areas including the economic performance of the devices and the development and installation of control systems.

They will work for three years on the project, dividing their time between Maynooth and Aquamarine premises in Edinburgh and Belfast, while also making site visits to the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, where the Oyster device has been tested over the last four years.

"Aquamarine Power's aim is to become the world's leading supplier of utility-scale wave farm power stations," company chief executive Paddy O'Kane said, adding that the "survivability and performance" of the device was now "largely proven".

"We look forward to working with them (Maynooth) on this exciting project with very clear academic and commercial goals."

Last year, the Government announced €26m in funding to help develop the industry and set a guaranteed price for each kilowatt of power produced, designed to encourage commercial deployment. Some 1,500 jobs could be created in the industry from 2020.

The ESB is currently planning a wave energy farm off the coast of Co Clare, using a number of commercial devices. It is expected to be producing power by 2018.

Irish Independent

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