Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Sea Power International AB (publ)

  Our belief is that the renewable industry is an emerging industry in a high tech area with an attraction much like the IT industry. Perhaps this is the next future industry to attract capital to make it move. Much is still to be done on R&D but facts are that we already have the first operational offshore device of its kind for the production of electricity utilising the energy in ocean waves.

  At present our industry has to depend on governmental subsidies. The wave power industry is very much in the same situation as the wind power industry was when the Danish government took a collective, political economy standpoint and made the wind industry to be one of the most successful industrial developments in Denmark ever. And profitable! With the right approach from the UK Government the wave power industry can become of major importance in the near future not only for the domestic industry but for export business as well. This industry will then have a good chance to attract the venture capitalists as the IT industry did.

  For many years different projects have sought to harness the power of the waves in the oceans to produce energy that is clear and renewable. (The Marine Foresight Panel has stated that if 0.1 per cent of energy in the oceans was converted to electricity, it would supply the world's energy demands more than five times over). The west coast of Scotland has one of the best wave "climates" in the world, and is seen as the ideal place in the UK to develop such a project.

  Sea Power International wish to begin to utilise this vast resource, using the methods it has developed using its own means and helped by capital injections from some 350 truly enthusiastic shareholders over the past 13 years. This makes use of a Floating Wave Power Plant (FWPV), allowing the capture of the higher energy waves found offshore, and negating the need for natural shore features or expensive civil engineering works. Sea Power has already built, tested and successfully operated a full-scale version of the design off the Swedish west coast during the 1990's. For reference see attached drawing.

  As a result of a competition under the SRO3 legislation, Sea Power International has won a contract with Scottish and Southern Energy to supply wave-generated electricity to the Shetland Islands, at a guaranteed price, for 15 years. Estimated starting date for the production is 15 October 2002. This electricity will replace some of the current expensive and polluting diesel-generated capacity on the islands. In order to fulfil this contract Sea Power International has set up a separate company named Sea Power Scotland Ltd that will build and operate an initial wave power plant to fulfil this contract. The remaining problem is funding. If this first power plant will be built and put into operation the company will subsequently build further plants to take advantage of the DTI's proposal that 30 per cent of the UK's energy needs (30 billion kWh per year) should be derived from renewable sources.

  The projected cost of building, installing and commissioning the first plant is £2,600,000.

  The implementation of the project would see the creation of many new, skilled jobs, in addition to securing jobs in the project's supporting industries. Sea Power is in addition seeking to start a centre of technical and manufacturing expertise of wave power technology with its five year expansion programme to produce a further 29 plants.

  Sea Power has as well through its subsidiary Exim Stromturbiner AB, developed a turbine utilising the tidal currents and streams in rivers. The turbine has been successfully tested in laboratory scale. A Joint Venture has now been established on the Shetland Island with the objective to have the turbine tested in the strong tidal currents there. The Joint Venture is for the time being looking for economical support on the islands. If funds are provided the test will go ahead during February 2001. The prototype turbine is already manufactured and delivered.

  Sea Power also plans to bring hydrogen-producing units online, to begin to meet the demand for the clean production of gas from rapidly advancing fuel cell technology, currently being spearheaded by companies such as BMW and Mercedes.

  Our involvement in the production of hydrogen, "The Fuel for the Future", is attracting special interest as our floating platform can be looked upon as an ever-producing gas field and with the capacity to store the fuel produced on-board until unloaded into a gas tanker. SPI has recently participated in a number of conferences relating to the notion of replacing petrol with hydrogen. During the last conference (held in Bavaria, Germany), California's Secretary of the Treasury stated that 22 per cent of all new cars in California would be powered by hydrogen by no later than 2005. In view of the exciting possibilities, both BMW and Mercedes (currently world leaders in the area) have invited SPI to meetings in order to ascertain the prospects of importing environmentally friendly produced hydrogen from Sea Power. At the present time, hydrogen is being imported from Canada and Africa, which are the only places where it is currently produced in an environmentally friendly manner. Sea Power wants, as a first step, to convert the original FWPV plant (currently moored in the Gothenburg harbour) into a hydrogen-producing unit. This would take place within the framework of a UK LINK project together with Professor John TS Irvine, St Andrews University in Scotland. Stemming from talks with St Andrews, Sea Power will also meet with Rolls Royce in order to find a more extensive base for a UK LINK project.

  Sea Power estimates that in year five, it would be possible to have five FWPVHY plants commissioned. These would each deliver 1,340,000m3 of hydrogen, which should be measured against the fact that a single car fuelled by hydrogen will need approximately 4,500m3 per year. This equates to one plant supplying in the vicinity of 230 cars' yearly consumption of hydrogen.

  It is estimated that close to 100,000 cars in Germany and California will be hydrogen-fuelled within the next ten years—creating an annual demand for up to 450,000,000m3 of hydrogen, (the yearly production of 400 FWPVHY's).


  Technological viability. Is the technology available for efficient generation of power from waves and tides?

  The answer is without reservation Yes!

  Our prototype Floating Wave Power Vessel (FWPV) was tested outside the west coast of Sweden during eight months including the winter season. This prototype plant was designed after extensive laboratory testing at the Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, at their ship testing facilities. Further laboratory tests, after this full-scale test, have been made at Chalmers and the Hydraulic Research Limited of the UK, Wallingford, and have only confirmed the results. It is however important to understand that much R&D remains to be done to improve any new technology.

  Our stream (tidal current) turbine is a development stemming from already commercially operating wind turbines from the same inventor. The only difference is that the turbine is lowered into the water streams making it five to eight times more efficient. Laboratory tests are now to be confirmed in a prototype test at the Shetland Islands planned for February this year.

  Commercial viability. Will wave and tidal energy become commercially viable in the near future, and attractive to the private sector as a profitable investment?



  at present our industry has to depend on governmental subsidies. The wave power industry is very much in the same situation as the wind power industry was when the Danish government took a collective, political economy standpoint and made the wind industry to be one of the most successful industrial developments in Denmark ever. And profitable! With the right approach from the UK Government the wave power industry can become of major importance in the near future not only for the domestic industry but for export business as well. This industry will then have a good chance to attract the venture capitalists as the IT industry did.

  The political pressure on environmental questions, underlined by recent findings about mans influence on the global warming effect, and technological advances, will sooner or later attract investors from the private sector. As the "players" in established energy sectors have enormous interests to defend it is however essential that governments takes the lead supporting the new companies involved in the development of the renewable energy sector. As often is the case in new, emerging industries, founders very often start from a very small capital base.

  Current projects. What projects are currently running in the UK and how successful have they been? Why did past projects fail?

  Sea Power International AB has currently three projects in the UK.

  1.  The Floating Wave Power Vessel (FWPV) to be built and put into operation offshore the Shetland Islands. For the time being we are working to get funding and offers for the construction. The interest in Scotland and on the islands is mainly stemming from the fact that our projects can generate work now and in the future. Available central and local funds are however too small to make it possible to start. We are therefore looking for partners in Scotland for the actual construction and all over Europe on the investment side. EU can offer some grants but for our small company the effort to get through the complicated bureaucratic procedures is too costly and slow. We have so far in spite of big efforts not been successful to raise enough capital.

  2.  The tidal current turbine is now in place on the Shetland Islands for test. We have formed a local Joint Venture and are waiting for response on our request for cost sharing from local funds. Only laboratory results are available for the time being but if everything goes according to present plans we will have information in the end of February this year.

  3.  Hydrogen. As described above we are currently trying to start a joint project with St Andrews University.

  We have not been involved in projects in the UK before and we do not have first hand information why they failed. We have however studied the results in as much detail as possible and our opinion is that they were too fragile and too expensive. They were built disregarding the harsh sea conditions, well known to the shipping and offshore industry. Our Floating Wave Power Vessel is based on proven marine engineering technology used in shipbuilding all over the world. For the production of the electricity we utilise robust and standard turbines and equipment developed over long periods by leading suppliers like ABB and others. We have developed and tested the FWPV for the past ten years. The development and testing have been conducted successfully and the FWPV is now ready for commercial use.

  Renewables strategy. What role should wave and tidal energy have in the Government's renewable energy strategy? Should they be a higher priority?

  They should absolutely have a higher priority! This is true for governments all over the world but as UK and especially the northern part enjoy one of the best wave "climates" in the world it is our opinion that the UK Government would put wave and tidal energy more in focus than what is the case now. There are more interesting projects than ever waiting for the breakthrough and the interest is growing very fast all over the world.

  Research and development. What Research & Development is being undertaken at present? How much funding is available and how easy is it for innovative ideas to gain support? Is national funding for R&D being well co-ordinated? What sorts of peer-review processes are undertaken?

  Our general feeling is that the R&D is at its lowest today as too little funding is available. We have together with the St Andrews University applied for funds for a hydrogen project. Although as always there is (a necessary) bureaucracy we have been well received. Until now, however, we have had no success. We think that more funding has to be available for demonstrating devices or many good ideas will never be realised. The level of support today (up to 35 per cent) is too little for most of the new projects now under development. Has to be at least 80-90 per cent!

  To answer your question in full, we have too little experience but we have got good help so far from the different enterprises in Scotland and on the Shetland Islands.

  Environmental aspects. What are the environmental implications of wave and tidal energy, particularly for marine life? How will such devices affect shipping?

  Different to windmills and coast based wave power plants, offshore plants and tidal turbines are not disturbing the views or the landscape at all. The impact on marine life is very small and we found that around our prototype plant off the Swedish west coast there were a lot of fish around. There would be no problem for the shipping at all as the offshore plant and turbines will be well marked and can be located outside the normal shipping routes.

  International comparisons. How does Britain compare with other comparable nations in R&D in this field? What projects are currently being undertaken abroad and how successful have they been?

  On the first question: Very good!

  On the second question we have only been able to find out about two projects beside the numerous under testing, construction and in a few cases production in Europe. One prototype model has been produced in Australia. The system uses a parabolic wall which focuses wave energy into a column. Initial testing of the 1:25 model has been encouraging and the company has received a $750,000 grant through the Australian Greenhouse Office's Renewable Energy Commercialisation Programme. The other one is an older project in Japan called the Mighty Whale, designed around an oscillating water column.

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