Memorandum submitted by the Commission
for Wave Power in Scotland
The Commission for Wave Power in Scotland is
a group formed to determine how to capitalise on the industrial
opportunities offered by Scotland's position as world leader in
wave power. It is comprised of representatives from trade unions,
electricity suppliers, renewable energy investors, wave energy
experts and also includes a cross-party range of MSPs. The Scottish
Council Foundation, a leading think tank, is providing the secretariat.
Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise advise
the Commission as do the two Scottish wave power companiesWaveGen,
based in Inverness, and Edinburgh's Ocean Power Delivery.
The Commission's Scottish focus is largely due
to the presence in Scotland of the two UK-based wave power companies
and the fact that the vast majority of the wave power resource
in the UK is also located in Scotland. Nevertheless, the Commission
is abreast of developments elsewhere and is particularly well
placed to comment on the state of wave power in the UK.
Members of the Commission:
Tracey White, Scottish Trades Union Congress
Robin Harper MSP
Cathy Jamieson MSP
Andrew Lyon, Forward Scotland
George Lyon MSP
Kenny MacAskill MSP
James Martin, Scottish & Southern Energy
Jeremy Sainsbury, Fred Olsen Productions Ltd
Ian Taylor, Greenpeace
Tom Thorpe, ETSU
Advisors to the Commission:
Blair Armstrong, Scottish Enterprise
Elaine Hanton, Highlands & Islands Enterprise
Richard Yemm, Ocean Power Delivery
Allan Thomson, WaveGen
Secretariat to the Commission:
Mike Davies, Scottish Council Foundation
The run down of the UK Department of Energy's
Wave Energy Programme in 1982 left the technology with a significant
credibility problem. Nevertheless, about 15 viable wave energy
devices have been installed worldwide since 1983. Only two of
these devices have failed in service and several have been decommissioned.
The most recent device is the LIMPET, a shoreline device at Islay
(Scotland), which came on stream in October 2000. There are approximately
six further wave energy devices currently under construction overseas,
the largest of which is a 2 MW system scheduled to be installed
in Portugal later this year. Most of these devices are being built
by industry as commercial undertakings.
The evidence of functioning devices and the
involvement of commercial interests give a clear indication that
the technology required for wave energy is available. A major
study commissioned by the DTI1 in 2000 concluded:
No major technological barriers to the development
of Wave Energy Prototypes have been identified. All the issues
raised under design, construction, deployment and operation can
be addressed by transfer of technology from other industries,
especially the offshore industry.
However, the technology is far from maturefurther
research and development is required and is being undertaken.
Industrial involvement is developing commercial
wave energy schemes is relatively recent (since about the mid
1990s). As a result, the technology is still undergoing development.
This is illustrated in the graph shown in Figure 1, taken from
an independent, peer-reviewed assessment of wave energy undertaken
for the DTI2. It shows that the predicted cost of electricity
from wave energy devices has reduced significantly since the run
down of the UK's Wave Energy Programme, and costs are now between
four and eight p/kWh. These predictions are confirmed by the devices
that have been awarded contracts in the Third Scottish Renewables
Order (SRO 3).
At these prices, wave energy is competitive
with several other renewable energy technologies, all of which
have had the benefit of continued Government support throughout
the 1980's and 1990's. These prices enable wave energy to compete
in supplying electricity to isolated or island communities, where
the competition is from diesel generation. However, wave energy
cannot yet compete commercially against conventional fossil fuel
generation. The historic reduction in generating costs and the
involvement of industry and commercial investors indicate that
continued reductions in generating costs are likely and that wave
energy could become commercially viable at a later date. One of
the main factors in this will be the achievement of economies
of scale as more devices are built; this has been one of the main
reasons for the improved competitiveness of other renewable energy
technologies, such as onshore wind.
It is true to say that wave energy still has
some problems in gaining investor confidence. However, both of
the Scottish wave energy companies have achieved significant industrial
backing. A similar situation exists overseas. For instance, earlier
this year Woodside (a major Australian energy producer) took a
5 per cent equity stake in Ocean Power Technologies (an American
company whose sole product is a wave energy device), which valued
the company at $60,000,000.
3. CURRENT PROJECTS
Current Commercial Projects
There are two main commercial projects running
in the UK:
The LIMPET. This is a shoreline Oscillating
Water Column (OWC) developed by WaveGen. At present, it has the
capacity to supply up to 0.5 MW of power to the grid on the Scottish
island of Islay (there is scope for future upgrading of the system).
In this type of device, the wave energy collector takes the form
of a partially submerged shell into which seawater is free to
enter and leave (Figure 2). As the water enters or leaves, the
level of water in the plenum chamber rises or falls in sympathy.
A column of air, contained above the water level, is alternately
compressed and expanded by this movement to generate an alternating
steam of high velocity air in an exit blowhole. If this air stream
is allowed to flow to and from the atmosphere via a pneumatic
turbine, energy can be extracted from the system and used to generate
The Pelamis. The Pelamis is a device
being developed by Ocean Power Delivery for deployment offshore
(Figure 3). It consists of a number of cylindrical sections hinged
together. The wave-induced motion of the cylinders is resisted
at the joints by hydraulic rams that pump high pressure oil through
hydraulic motors via smoothing accumulators. The hydraulic motors
drive electrical generators to produce electricity. A 750kW device
will be 150m long and 3.5m in diameter and composed of five modular
sections. Power will be linked to the grid via sub sea power cables.
Key features of the Pelamis device include proven
survivability and the resourcing of all its components from currently
available technology. The device is undergoing a staged development
programme. Model testing (both in the frequency and time domain)
at 80th (survivability), 35th (numerical code validation) and
20th (survivability and numerical model validation) scale has
been successfully completed. The next immediate target is a 7th
scale prototype for systems development to be deployed in early
Both these projects applied to the SRO3 and
were awarded Power Purchase Agreements, which is an indicator
of success. However, they will have to demonstrate this success
with in-service performance.
Current Academic Projects
In addition, there is work going on in several
Edinburgh University. Work still
continues here on the famous "Duck". However, in recent
years efforts have been focused on a smaller modular device (the
Sloped IPS Buoy), which has promising economics (see Figure 1).
Lancaster University. This establishment
continues to develop the PS Frog, albeit with scarce funding despite
this being the device with the lowest predicted generating costs
(see Figure 1).
In addition Portsmouth University inter alia
is developing a floating OWC and theoretical research is being
conducted at a number of academic establishments.
It is difficult to quantify "success"
in projects at this phase in the development of a device. It is
true to say that these concepts have successfully learned from
the mistakes of the UK Wave Energy Programme.
Why Did Past Projects Fail?
The UK Wave Energy Programme ran from 1974 to
1983. It was set up in response to the oil crisis of the 1970s
and its remit was to extract the greatest amount of useful energy
out of the seas around the UK. Hence, its initial design target
was for a 2,000 MW wave power station (in comparison, most of
the successful devices currently being developed are between 0.5
and 2 MW). Wave energy was a completely new technology and so,
with hindsight, this early target was over-ambitious and led to
designs for huge devices, which were technically very challenging
and commercially uneconomic.
In addition, the UK Wave Energy Programme was
undertaken at a time when the North Sea offshore oil and gas industry
was starting to develop. The more modern wave energy devices have
had the benefit of 20+ years of experience gained in the offshore
industry, which has led to improved designs.
Wave energy should play a role alongside other
renewable energy technologies in helping to reduce the harmful
emissions of greenhouse gases associated with power generation.
It is important to realise that this technology has been starved
of Government funding until relatively recently and, hence, is
at a less mature stage than other renewable energy technologies
which have had the benefits of continuous support for 15 to 25
years. In order to rectify this imbalance, wave energy should
be given a higher priority than at present.
Another important aspect of the DTI's strategy
is to build export-winning technologies. It has failed to do so
with most of the renewable energy technologies that it has supported
to date (eg nearly all wind turbines in the UK are imports). With
wave energy, the Government has the opportunity to develop a world-leading
industry. This is one of the main reasons that this Scottish Commission
Governmental support is seen as critical in
three main areas if the UK is to achieve a pre-eminent position
in this technology:
R&D. This is currently being
achieved at a moderate scale through DTI grants and EPSRC supported
Early Deployment. The technology
would benefit from having a suitable test site with good grid
connections to act as a development site and shop window for the
Market Status. Mechanisms need to
remain in place which will help achieve suitable economies of
scale. The various renewables obligations (NFFO, SRO, etc) have
supported other renewable energy technologies over the past 20
years, helping them to achieve a status where some of them can
now start to compete in the market for power generation. This
type of support has been made available to wave energy since only
5. RESEARCH AND
This Commission is not in a position where it
can comment in detail on the R&D being undertaken in the UK.
However, it notes that the funding from the DTI is predicted on
the DTI believing that this technology will not make a significant
contribution to energy supply until well after 2010. The views
of wave energy developers (both within the UK and overseas) and
their investors indicate that they envisage a more rapid market
This Commission recognises the complementary
activities of the DTI and the EPSRC in funding industry-led and
academia-led R&D respectively. However, it also notes the
lack of support for undertakings that would be of benefit to the
whole of wave energy (eg having a common test facility as noted
above). In particular it views with some dismay the imminent closure
of the wide tank test facility at Edinburgh University.
The potential impact of wave energy devices
on the environment has been investigated in general2 and for specific
cases such as the LIMPET. These studies and operation experience
show that, providing wave energy devices are deployed with some
care, they will not have any significant adverse effect on the
environment. Indeed, their positive environmental attributes have
led organisations such as Greenpeace to campaign in support of
this technology and the original pilot plant on Islay was a tourist
Wave energy devices situated offshore can have
some impact on navigation. Providing simple steps are taken (eg
use of navigation lights and radar reflectors) wave energy devices
should avoid being any hazard to shipping.
Wave energy devices could also limit fishing
in some areas. However, this can be more than offset by using
these devices as artificial reefs, which has the effect of promoting
marine growth and diversity.
In addition, wave energy can have many important
socio-economic benefits. It has been estimated that the economic
market for wave energy could be at least £500 billion, with
substantial consequences for employment in many of the areas that
are gradually being run down in the UK (eg ship builders could
readily convert to fabrication of wave energy devices).
Several countries have had Government sponsored
research and development programmes over the past twenty years.
Hence, of the 15 devices deployed during this time, only two have
been in the UK (the LIMPET and its predecessor, a 75 kW pilot
plant also on Islay). All of these countries have a much less
favourable wave climate to exploit (eg China, Denmark, India,
Japan, Portugal and Sri Lanka). Of particular note is the structured
programme in Denmark, which allows for a range of funding appropriate
to the maturity of a concept (ie initial concepts are given a
small amount of money to permit initial tests and if these look
promising, more monies are made available to proceed to the next
phase of development and so on).
There are also industry led activities, particularly
in Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands and USA as outlined in
Table 1. Most of these activities have led to the first commercial
size plants being under construction. In several cases, confidence
in these plants is so high that orders have been placed already
for additional devices.
There are indications of early success for many
of these overseas companies (eg multiple orders) but long-term
success has still to be demonstrated. Nevertheless, it is clear
that the UK is no longer the clear world leader in wave energy.
Therefore this Commission urges the Science and Technology Committee
to undertake all that it can to support this emerging and important
technology, which can have so many important benefits.
Table 1 Summary of Overseas Commercial
Activities [Reference 3]
|This is an advanced shoreline OWC, which uses a novel, variable pitch turbine to improve efficiency and a parabolic wall behind the OWC to focus the wave energy on the OWC collector (see Figure 4). This could lead to significant improvements in the economics of OWCs.
||This scheme already has a power purchase agreement with the local utility in Australia and construction is about to begin. This is a joint venture between the developer and a renewable energy investment company. A contract is being drawn up with another utility for a second device in a European country.
|Ireland||McCabe Wave Pump
||This device consists of three narrow rectangular steel pontoons, which are hinged together across their beam pointing into the incoming waves (Figure 5). The pontoons move relative to each other and energy is extracted from this rotation by linear hydraulic rams mounted between the pontoons near the hinges.
||A 40 metre long prototype of this device was deployed off the coast of Kilbaha in Ireland a few years ago. A commercial demonstration scheme is currently being built and is scheduled for deployment this year using mainly private money but with some input from public funds.
|Netherlands||Archimedes Wave Swing
||This consists of a cylindrical, air filled chamber (the "Floater"), which can move vertically with respect to the cylindrical "Basement", which is fixed to the sea bed (Figure 6). This movement is generated by the changes in buoyancy of the air within the floater as waves pass over the top.
||A 2 MW Pilot scheme is currently being constructed in Romania for deployment near Portugal. This is supported financially and technically by a large Dutch utility and several industrial companies.
|USA||OPT WEC||The Wave Energy Converter developed by Ocean Power Technology (OPT) consists of a float-based system to drive the generators using mechanical force developed by the vertical movement of a wave energy converter.
||The OPT system has been extensively tested at a large scale in the Eastern Atlantic and the first commercial schemes are being built in Australia and in the Pacific, with a number of other schemes in the pipeline.
1. Ove Arup, "Wave Energy: Technology Transfer and
R&D Recommendations", October 2000.
2. T W Thorpe, "A Brief Review of Wave Energy",
ETSU Report R-120 for the DTI, May 1999.
3. "Wave Energy for the 21st CenturyStatus
and Prospects", Renewable Energy World, August 2000.
8 February 2001