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BBC News, February 25, 2009

transmissionoverviewA BMW saloon was converted with equipment to capture energy normally wasted when a driver brakes.

The team from Midlothian-based Artemis Intelligent Power said the equipment was less expensive than the batteries used in existing hybrid vehicles.

Carbon emissions from the prototype were also down by 30% in combined city and motorway driving.

The system, known as Digital Displacement, was originally developed to convert the irregular movements of waves into a steady stream of energy.

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A hydraulic drive allows energy usually wasted during braking to be stored and used again when the car needs to accelerate.

The car ran on a mixture of stored energy and petrol, with computer control technology used to switch between the two power sources.

Project leader Dr. Wim Rampen said the technology represented a serious step forward in achieving cost-effective fuel economy.

“The system will be much less expensive than electric hybrids and will help to make hybrid vehicles an economic, rather than a lifestyle, choice,” he said.

The project was supported by the British Department for Transport and the Energy Saving Trust.

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PETER BROWN, EnergyCurrent.com, February 16, 2009

stromnessOn a Monday morning in May last year, the Atlantic tide set a turbine in motion on the seabed off Orkney, and the energy captured was connected to the national grid. It was, said Jim Mather, Scotland’s Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, a “massive step forward”.

The amount of electricity generated may have been tiny, but for marine engineers the significance was huge. Their industry had stopped paddling and started to swim.

For small companies trying to get wave or tide devices off the drawing board and into the sea, many problems lie in wait. All turbines, whether they sit on the seabed or float, must withstand that once-in-a-century wave that could be a thousand times more powerful than the average. Conditions vary with the seasons and the seabed. A device that works in a fjord might not function in a firth. Rigorous, long-term testing is therefore vital.

“There are parallels with wind,” says Alan Mortimer, head of renewables policy at Scottish Power. “Many different types of turbine were proposed in the early Eighties. They boiled down to a small number of successful concepts. The same needs to happen with marine devices, but the difference is that they need to be full- size just to be tested.

“To get a reasonable number of prototypes into the water costs millions. What these small companies need is capital support.”

That, however, is hard to find. The Wave and Tidal Energy Support Scheme (Wates), which put GBP13.5 million into promising technologies, is now closed. Last year the Scottish Government offered the 10m Saltire Prize for a commercially viable scheme, but the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), in its recent report Marine Energy: More Than Just a Drop in the Ocean?, called on the Government to provide another 40m.

This would go towards schemes to be tested at EMEC, the European Marine Energy Centre, which has two supported sites, with grid access, at Orkney. It was there that an Irish company, OpenHydro, made the grid breakthrough last year. “It’s desperately important that we grasp the nettle now,” says William Banks, IMechE’s president. “We have the micro-systems in place and I’d like to see them developed to the macro stage. However, unless we do that step by step, we’ll be in trouble.”

An estimated 50 teams are working around the world on marine energy. The danger is that Britain, and Scotland in particular, could lose the race, even though, as Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, says, “Scotland has a marine energy resource which is unrivalled in Europe.”

Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s tidal resources and a tenth of its wave potential.

Around 1,000 people work in Scottish marine energy, but that figure could billow. “You’re talking about an exercise that could transform the marine industry into something equivalent to oil and gas,” says Martin McAdam, whose company, Aquamarine Power, is growing fast.

Among his rivals in Scotland are AWS Ocean Energy, based near Inverness, with Archimedes, a submerged wave machine; Hammerfest UK, which wants to develop three 60MW tidal sites and is working with Scottish Power; Pelamis Wave Power, who are based in Edinburgh; and Scotrenewables, based in Orkney, who are currently developing a floating tidal turbine.

Politicians need to be educated about marine energy’s potential, says Banks. Indeed, IMechE has highlighted the need for sustained political leadership if what many see as the biggest problem – that of the grid – is to be solved. Why bring energy onshore if it can’t then reach homes?

“Grids were built to connect large power stations to cities. Now you’re going to have electricity generated all over the countryside. It’s a huge challenge,” says McAdam.

“We have had meetings with Ofgen and the national grid companies and we’re outlining the need to have grids to support at least 3,000MW of energy by 2020. That is definitely possible.” McAdam adds: “A European undersea grid is also being promoted and we’re very supportive of that.”

Such a system would help to overcome a frequent objection to renewables – their fickleness. If waves were strong in Scotland, Finland or France could benefit, and vice versa.

Another challenge is the cost of installation. “At the moment we’re competing with oil and gas for boats,” says McAdam. “We need to move away from using heavy-lift, jack-up vessels.” The answer might be devices that can be floated into position and then weighted down.

The race between suppliers is speeding up. Permission for a 4MW station at Siadar, off Lewis in the Western Isles, has just been granted to Wavegen, based in Inverness, and Npower Renewables. It could power about 1,500 homes, creating 70 jobs.

Among the success stories are the three 140-metre, red tubes developed by Pelamis (named after a sea serpent) which already float off the northern Portuguese coast at Aguadoura. More Pelamis turbines are to be installed at EMEC, along with Aquamarine’s wave device Oyster.

Oyster is basically a giant flap which feeds wave energy onshore to be converted to electricity. It has already been made, at a former oil and gas plant at Nigg, north of Inverness. A high- pressure pipeline was completed in December and a hydro-electric station will be installed this spring. In the summer, Oyster will finally be bolted to piles hammered into the seabed.

Unlike wave energy, tidal power needs a channel between two land masses – and in the roaring Pentland Firth, between Caithness and Orkney, Scotland has what has been called “the Saudi Arabia of marine power”, Europe’s largest tidal resource. To exploit it, a GBP2 million contract to build Aquamarine’s tidal power device, Neptune, was awarded last month. It will be tested at EMEC.

Elsewhere, SeaGen, an “underwater windmill” developed by a Bristol company, has just generated 1.2MW near the mouth of Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland.
But the most controversial of Britain’s tidal energy schemes is, of course, in the Severn Estuary, where a barrage could provide around 5% of Britain’s energy. Environmentalists fear irreparable damage to marshes and mudflats, but the Government is known to prefer the barrage to other, smaller options. The decision it takes next year is sure to be eagerly watched in Scotland.

Somewhat overshadowed by the Severn plan is Wave Hub, a project to build a wave-power station 10 miles off St Ives, on Cornwall’s north coast, using both Pelamis and a sea-bed device developed by ORECon of Plymouth. An application to create a safety area around it has just been submitted, part of the meticulous planning that precedes any marine trial.

“We have to have environmentalists looking at the impact on fisheries, flora and fauna,” says McAdam. “And we have to be completely open with the communities we’re going into. But most people realise that climate change and energy security are real things. We want to minimalise our environmental impact and give the country a means of isolating itself from the volatility of oil and gas.”

In theory, marine energy could generate a fifth of the UK’s electricity needs, but that would require a multitude of stations. Bill Banks believes nuclear power will be needed. “But we also need a variety of renewables,” he says. “Marine will take its place along with bio, hydro and wind energy. It’s available, it’s there at the moment, and if we get our act together I think we can lead Europe. We need a synergy of activity.”

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DAVID FOGARTY, Reuters Climate Change Correspondent, February 5, 2009

ceto-overview1For millennia, Australia’s rugged southern coast has been carved by the relentless action of waves crashing ashore.

The same wave energy could soon be harnessed to power towns and cities and trim Australia’s carbon emissions.

“Waves are already concentrated solar energy,” says Michael Ottaviano, who leads a Western Australian firm developing a method to turn wave power into electricity.

“The earth has been heated by the Sun, creating wind, which created the swells,” he told Reuters from Perth, saying wave power had the potential to supply all of Australia’s needs many times over.

Ottaviano heads Carnegie Corp, which has developed a method of using energy captured from passing waves to generate high-pressure sea water. This is piped onshore to drive a turbine and to create desalinated water.

A series of large buoys are tethered to piston pumps anchored in waters 15 to 50 metres deep (49 to 131 feet). The rise and fall of passing waves drives the pumps, generating water pressures of up to 1,000 pounds per square inch (psi).

This drives the turbine onshore and forces the water through a membrane that strips out the salt, creating fresh water in a process that normally requires a lot of electricity.

The CETO (named after a mythical Greek sea creature) pumps and buoys are located under water, differing from some other wave power methods, for example, those that sit on the surface.

The CETO concept was invented in the 1970s by a Western Australian businessman Alan Burns and initial development began in 1999, followed by completion of a working prototype by 2005.

Ottaviano says the company, which works in partnership with British-based wind farm developer Renewable Energy Holdings and French utility EDF, is in the process of selecting a site for its first commercial demonstration plant in Australia.

The 50 megawatt plant, enough to power a large town, would cost between A$300 million to A$400 million ($193 million to $257 million) and cover about 5 hectares (12.5 acres) of seabed.

Funding could be raised from existing or new shareholders, he believes.

Several sites in Western Australia, including Albany in the south and Garden Island off Perth, looked promising.

“There’s significant interest in these sorts of projects, even in the current financial environment,” he added.

And a 50 MW plant was just a drop in the ocean.

He pointed to a study commissioned by the company that said wave power had the potential to generate up to 500,000 MW of electricity along the southern half of Australia’s coast at depths greater than 50 metres (165 feet).

At shallower depths, the potential was 170,000 MW, or about four times Australia’s installed power generation capacity.

Interest in renewable energy in Australia and elsewhere is being driven by government policies that enshrine clean energy production targets as well as state-backed funding programmes for emerging clean-tech companies.

“Australia is going to be one of those markets because of what the government is doing to drive investment in this sector. For starters, there’s quite a bit of direct government funding for projects like this,” he said.

The federal government has also set a renewable energy target of 20% by 2020, which is expected to drive billions of dollars worth of investment in Australia over the next decade, with much of it going into wind farms.

A second company, BioPower Systems, is developing underwater wave and tidal power systems and expects to complete pilot projects off northern Tasmania this year.

The company’s bioWAVE system is anchored to the sea bed and generates electricity through the movement of buoyant blades as waves pass, in a swaying motion similar to the way sea plants, such as kelp, move.

Tidal power, in which electricity is generated by turbines spinning to the ebb and flow of tides, has not taken off in Australia, partly because of cost, but is expected to be a big provider of green power in Britain in coming years.

Last week, Britain announced five possible projects to generate power from a large tidal area in south-west England. The largest of the projects could generate 8,600 MW and cost 21 billion pounds ($29 billion).

CONSTANT

Ottaviano believes wave power is one of the few green technologies that can provide steady, or baseload power.

Wind and solar photovoltaic panels can only operate at 25 to 30% efficiencies because neither the wind nor the sun are permanently available.

Government policies should promote the development of technologies that delivered large-scale, high-availability clean power competitively, he said.

“If you look from an outcome point of view and leave it up to the market to work out how that is going to be achieved, it comes down to geothermal certainly being one of the potential technologies because (of) its high availability and also potentially cost-competitive and harnessable at large scale,” Ottaviano said.

Australia has large geothermal potential in remote central and northern areas.

“Wave is another logical one because it is high availability. It is 90 to 100% available in most sites around southern Australia.”

“You could power the country 10 times over.”

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