Submission from the Marine Institute for
Innovation, University of Plymouth
The current state of UK research
and development in, and the deployment of, renewable energy-generation
technologies including: offshore wind; photovoltaics; hydrogen
and fuel cell technologies; wave; tidal; bioenergy; ground source
heat pumps: and intelligent grid management and energy storage.
This evidence sets out to inform the committee
of a major new research initiative in the South West of England
concerning the development of commercially viable wave energy
conversion devices. The research is to be carried out jointly
by the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth through the Peninsular
Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy (PRIMaRE). This
work is being developed in partnership with the South West Regional
Development Agency, who are currently developing the associated
WAVE HUB project which will provide the necessary infrastructure
to support the deployment of 4 new prototype wave energy conversion
devices off the north coast of Cornwall. The evidence provides
details of PRIMaRE's functions, planned capital investments and
priority research projects. Recommendations are made with regard
to actions that could be taken to strengthen research investment
from both the public and private sectors.
This evidence is submitted by Andrew J Chadwick,
Professor of Coastal Engineering and Associate Director of the
Marine Institute, University of Plymouth, Jim Grant, Enterprise
Leader, University of Plymouth, George Smith, Professor of Renewable
Energy, University of Exeter and Dr Catherine Bass, Research Development
Officer, University of Exeter on behalf of PRIMaRE.
PRIMaREPeninsula Research Institute for
Marine Renewable Energy
1. The Universities of Exeter and Plymouth
are collaborating to develop PRIMaRE as a response to the need
for academic institutions to have the capability to provide multidisciplinary,
multi-institutional collaborative research associated with the
development of marine renewable energy. PRIMaRE will be able to
respond to the demand-pull for high quality relevant and timely
research from the commercial sector, government departments, NGOs
and sector based organisations. We believe it is by thinking "big"
in terms of research activities that academic institutions can
have the best, most efficient and most durable solutions to research
needs within the sector.
2. The South West Regional Development Agency's
WAVE HUB project provides a key factor in the growth of PRIMaRE
offering a platform for the demonstration of wave energy device
arrays in situ, the complex operation, monitoring and support
regimes required, as well as a full understanding of the environmental
and physical impact of the scheme. The Wave Hub project will also
help to examine the processes involved in bringing energy ashore,
the interface between land and offshore infrastructures and the
factors influencing efficiency, reliability and maintainability
of device arrays. The South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA)
has proposed Wave Hub as a project to demonstrate the provision
of electrical infrastructure necessary to support and encourage
developers of wave energy converter devices (WECs) to generate
electricity from wave energy. Regen SW refer to the Wave Hub as
a "revolutionary" development that could lead to the
"creation of up to 700 jobs and contribute £27 million
a year to the economy". It would also generate enough clean,
renewable energy to power 14,000 homes. Wave Hub will support
the UK government's energy policy by contributing towards the
UK's drive to meet the challenges and achieve the goals of the
new energy policy including a 60% reduction in carbon emissions
by 2050. In addition, Wave Hub will support the South West region's
commitment to encouraging technologies for renewable energy generation
that will contribute to the region's renewable energy target of
11%-15% of electricity production by 2010. Wave Hub is essential
in helping to bridge the gaps between production prototypes and
full commercial wave farms and will enable up to four developers
at any one time to test arrays of their individual devices. At
present, three developers have expressed an interest in linking
devices to Wave Hub. The tests may last up to five years in order
to prove the reliability, maintainability, operability and effectiveness
of their devices in marine conditions. They will also be gathering
data on power outputs to see if the devices can produce the levels
of energy / electricity expected. When operational, Wave Hub will
be situated 17km offshore off Hayle on the North Cornwall Coast.
Hayle has been recognised as the ideal place to bring power ashore
because of its close proximity to the grid and the presence of
an existing substation.
3. PRIMaRE is a reflection of these institutions'
belief that there is a rapidly growing opportunity for the creation
and development of the marine renewable energy market (evidence
from the EU Green Maritime Paper supports this). UK industry is
strategically well placed to take a substantial share of this
market if it is properly mobilised with UK Government encouragement
and is suitably supported in terms of R&D, innovation services,
knowledge transfer and education & training by the academic
sector. Each institution in itself does not have the critical
mass to undertake such important tasks or meet the challengehence
the decision to join forces. There is some additional benefit
of economies of scale in the administration and function of the
4. PRIMARE is a vehicle developed to identify
the landscape for marine renewable research both in long term
opportunities and short term requirements and to provide a delivery
capability. It is designed to provide the strategic vision and
leadership in the UK and be part of and function alongside other
major European marine energy initiatives. PRIMARE has therefore
already considered key strategic issues behind the growth of the
marine renewable energy sector and is endeavouring to position
itself and shape itself to meet those challenges.
5. The scale of our ambition is:
The establishment of a first-class, leading-edge,
regional research facility and equipment asset pool available
for all regional marine energy stakeholders.
To generate a £6-8 million pa (sustainable)
research programme, a population of 30-50 academics plus similar
(or greater) numbers of researchers and postgraduate students.
To provide long term benefits for Education and Training and supply
of suitably qualified manpower.
To position Exeter and Plymouth as a leading
international presence in marine renewable energy research and
6. PRIMARE RESEARCH
6.1 Task Area 1: Resource Characterisation
An important lesson learned from the wind industry
is that the basis of any successful renewable energy development,
and the degree to which such developments can be expedited, is
a "bankable" quantification of the resource being exploited.
This task area aims to establish resource characterisation procedures
that will form the standard against which banks, venture capitalists,
insurance companies and other investors will conduct due diligence,
prior to investment decisions. Projects include:
Wave climate monitoring.
Development of wave climate modeling.
Development of WEC energy absorption
models for resource assessment.
Development of bankable wave climate
analysis and interpretation methods.
Development of bankable resource
Correlation methodology for long
term and short term observations.
6.2 Task Area 2: Marine Operations
This task area focuses on research that will
enable project revenues to be enhanced or operating costs to be
reduced through WEC design improvements, with particular regard
to array configurations. The prime measure is the array capacity
factor. This can be improved by maximising the reliability and
availability of all system components as well as maximising the
proportion of the available resource that is intercepted. Projects
Optimisation of WEC device development
Mooring systems for WEC array configurations.
Deployment and recovery logistics.
WEC control system, development,
reliability and availability.
Foundations analysis and marine geo-technics.
Electrical infrastructure dynamics
Interactions between fluid, structure
and sea bed.
Total system monitoring, data archiving
Component and reliability and failure.
6.3 Task Area 3: Environmental Impact
Wave Hub project development activity has already
highlighted that the scope of the environmental impact assessment
for a wave energy development is very broad. This is in part due
to its novelty. The breadth of the environmental impact assessment
impacts proportionally on project capital expenditure. At present,
within the UK at least, there are many more wind development projects
that have been delayed or refused on grounds of environmental
impact than wind farms actually installed. Wind power developers
not only have to consider the costs of developments that successfully
proceed through the planning and EIA stages, but also need to
account for similar costs for unsuccessful development initiatives.
To expedite the development of a wave energy industry it is vital
that research-grade effort is devoted to the environmental impact
assessment process at the stage of the first significant wave
farm development, ie the Wave Hub. The essential contribution
of this task area will be to identify the significant impacts
on which such studies should focus and to distinguish these from
second, or higher, order impacts to reduce the capital intensity
of future wave power project developments. Projects include detailed,
research grade base-line surveys and subsequent monitoring of:
Coastal bio-diversity and geo-morphology.
6.4 Task Area 4: Safe and Economic Operations
and Marine Risk Mitigation
A brief analysis of the business case and final
design documentation for Wave Hub reveals that the component of
projected operating costs that has increased most through the
various stages is insurance. This is in part due to the uncertainties
associated with the absence of precedent projects and experience
of wave energy developments on the scale of Wave Hub. While it
is likely that at least initially insurance premiums for WEC developers
and the OpCo are likely to be high, this should not preclude applying
significant research effort to increase the a priori safety
of Wave Hub, and similar future developments. For example, this
task area aims to develop failsafe systems that will actively
deter marine traffic from approaching the exclusion area, rather
than relying on passive warning systems such as beacons. Some
of the tasks aim to establish practical, workable codes of operational
practice that should improve insurer confidence. The resulting
research products should result in dramatic downward revisions
of insurance premiums and, therefore, operating costs. In the
instance of wave power developments, safer operations will definitely
be more cost competitive. Projects include:
Exclusion zones for marine renewable
energy device arrays.
Technological mitigation measures
to reduce insured risk and operating costs.
Development of active collision avoidance
Classification and certification
of Wave Hub and Wave devices.
Strategies of alternative marine
Component recycling and impact on
project value and cost of power.
6.5 Task Area 5: Underwater and Surface Electrical
Undoubtedly, the variability, intermittency
and vigour of the energy resource being exploited in wave power
development results in circumstances in the area of electrical
power distribution that merit research-grade investigation, beyond
initial design of the system. Research effort in this task area
aims not only to investigate reliability and compliance issues
allied to the continuity and quality of electricity supplied,
but also to conduct research that anticipates undesirable events
and develops measures to mitigate them. In the case of the wind
industry, cabling and connection arrangements for wind farms are
not normally guaranteed by the distribution network operator,
but connection is maintained on a best endeavours basis. For WEC
developers, the marine electrical power infrastructure will be
their life-line to revenue, therefore it is sensible that research
effort be allocated toward measures that will permit as close
to 100% connection availability as possible. Projects include:
Reliability, maintainability and
availability of submerged electrical infrastructure.
Onboard and seabed condition monitoring
and control systems.
Power flow and fault current analysis
modelling in the face of wave energy variability and intermittency
and climate change.
Power system protection design for
optimal connection reliability.
Development of fault location techniques
for submerged cables.
Investigation of network dynamic
stability and impact of faults in distribution networks on Wave
Investigation of transmission and
distribution grid reinforcement or capacity expansion measures
for existing and future marine energy developments.
Investigation of requirements for
novel control strategies for fault ride-through.
6.6 Task Area 6: Socio-Economic Factors
To improve the investment environment for marine
renewables, and wave power specifically, it is critical that the
policy environment and economic conditions are right to allow
investors to make their decisions with confidence. Clearly, the
Wave Hub's central role as a pre-commercial demonstration project
will help establish these conditions. However, research tasks
in this area build on the prime objective by having the aim of
clarifying routes to expedite the growth of the market for wave
energy; activities in this area focus on identification of hurdles
to be overcome, the development of policy initiatives, identification
of market enabling actions, and isolation of first order economic
factors that will determine the rate of market growth. In addition,
research efforts here aim to record the perceptions of the wider
community of stakeholders in the general marine environment and
to identify actions that will maintain the south west's first
mover advantage in wave power. Projects include:
Marine spatial planning.
Public and other stakeholder perception.
Regional and national policy drivers
to permit optimal project financing.
Strategies for adding value to Wave
Hub via marketing and branding.
Industrialisation and establishment
of knowledge economy clusters and sectors for the SW economy.
Capturing the project development
"roadmap"; delivery of project development toolkit.
Carbon and energy life cycle audit
for wave power developments arrays.
Indirect economic and social benefits
of Wave Hub.
Socio-economic aspects of decommissioning.
7. PLANNED CAPITAL
Six major capital research investments are under
An array of 12 wave measurement buoys,
which will provide an internationally competitive measuring system
for fundamental marine/coastal research which will inevitably
constitute a natural attractor for both research funding and academic
expertise. This will provide a measurement of the wave and current
resource that will be necessary for Wave Hub OpCo. The high performance
of this array is also essential in order to undertake the type
of applied joint research with the device developers on the control
systems aimed at improving the survivability and performance of
A substantive new Wave Basin and
flumes which will be used to test and validate models of devices
and systems and contribute to the better understanding of the
inter-relationship between devices, the supporting infrastructure
and the environment.
Collision Avoidance and Monitoring
equipment which will address key issues of risk.
A Mooring Test Facility that will
allow international level research in design, numerical modelling
and full-scale testing and provide support for developer driven
Materials and Components testing.
This will be done at a range of levels, but at its most ambitious
it could involve a full reliability test rig This would be a unique
facility in the EU and might be supported from the forthcoming
European FP7 "infrastructure" call.
Vessels for Marine Monitoring and
Impact. These will be used to deploy equipment but will also be
used to support the proposals from Exeter and Plymouth for the
assessment of environmental impact and benefits (both with regards
the wholesale effect on flora and fauna and a specific understanding
of the effects on fisheries of a "no-take" zone).
We believe that the development of marine renewable
energy devices is where the greatest industrial attention will
be focused, where industrial outputs will have the greatest benefit
to UK energy provision and offer the greatest means to combat
climate change. Thus, they are likely to offer durable solutions,
and create a new industry sector where the UK can be a leading
player. Provision of UK government support for this industry and
the necessary wide ranging research needs is therefore crucial
to both the development of UK energy supplies and to UK competitiveness
in international markets. To provide the necessary research support
we recommend the following:
8.1 UK Government to make marine renewable
energy research a greater priority within the research councils
(support for fundamental and applied research) and other government
departments (responsible for applied research, innovation, industrial
and sector development etc).
8.2 UK Government to bring together the
Research Councils, Government Departments and Industrial Stakeholders
to facilitate the development of the necessary multi-institutional,
multi-disciplinary research clusters. Such developments would
benefit from "platform" type funding, providing base
level financial support in addition to project specific funding.
8.3 The priority research tasks identified
in this evidence, should receive due consideration in the development
of any new UK Government initiatives.