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Posts Tagged ‘Saltire Prize’

BBC News, June 11, 2010

A renewable energy company has gone “back to the future” to develop a device to harness power from waves.

AWS Ocean Energy chief executive Simon Grey said its prototype AWS-III on Loch Ness had evolved from “forgotten” technology first seen in 1985.

He said the device could eventually be used in the Northern Isles.

The technology was also tested on Loch Ness in the 1980s, but the Conservative government of the time suspended the wave energy programme.

Highlands Liberal Democrat MP and chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has visited the test site.

He said the progress being made by the company was impressive.

Mr Grey said Inverness-based AWS Ocean Energy was exploring the idea of a machine which had rubber rather than steel components.

Further research led to staff uncovering the similar concept from the 1980s.

He said: “We discovered that the work done in 1985 was rated as the most promising by the Department of Energy at the time.

“We have since taken that design and evolved it further so it is more cost effective in terms of producing power.”

EIGHTIES REVISITED

  • AWS Ocean Energy is updating technology first tested in 1985
  • The Conservatives were also in government at the time
  • Government was funding “green” energy projects then as it is today
  • The film Back to the Future was released in 1985

Mr Grey said the wave energy programme in the 1980s was fully funded by the UK government but the work was later suspended.

He said: “When interest in wave energy re-emerged people assumed that because it hadn’t happened in the past then those ideas wouldn’t work and they had to find new ideas.”

The chief executive said AWS-III was a re-working of a concept people had “forgotten about”.

The ring-shaped machine on Loch Ness is one tenth of the size of the device that could eventually be generating electricity on a commercial scale.

Full-scale machines could be deployed in the sea around Orkney and Shetland following further tests in 2012.

Investment of £2.3m was secured from the Scottish government to develop the AWS-III.

In 2008, AWS Ocean Energy said it had set its sights on winning the world’s largest prize for marine energy innovation.

It said it planned to double its workforce in 12 months, in part to improve its chances of securing the Scottish government’s Saltire Prize.

Following a visit to the test site on Loch Ness, Mr Alexander said: “Power from our seas can make a significant contribution to our energy security and the future of our environment.”

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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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JENNY HAWORTH, Scotman.com, February 12, 2009

na910MORE than three dozen energy companies from across the world are hoping to install wave energy devices in a stretch of sea off the north of Scotland. The renewable energy firms all have their sights on the Pentland Firth, which is considered one of the best locations in the world for generating electricity from the power of the tides.

Yesterday, the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed and will authorize any offshore  wave energy project, announced it had invited 38 companies to submit detailed plans for schemes in the Pentland Firth.

This is the first stretch of water off the UK to be opened up for development of marine renewables, meaning successful companies will be building among the first marine wave energy projects in the world.

Each company hopes to install dozens, or even hundreds of wave energy devices, such as tidal turbines, in the ocean.

Alex Salmond, the First Minister, hopes it will help Scotland become a world leader in renewable energy, saying “the fact that so many companies have already registered their interest in developing wave and tidal energy projects in the Pentland Firth and surrounding waters is extremely encouraging.”

“The Scottish Government has recently launched the world’s greatest-ever single prize for innovation in marine energy, the £10 million Saltire Prize, and the opening of the Pentland Firth for development is a timely and crucial move.”

The Crown Estate invited initial expressions of interest in the Pentland Firth from renewables firms in November 2008. A spokeswoman said she could not reveal how many companies had shown an interest because of competition rules, but she confirmed 38 firms would be invited to the next stage – to tender for sites in the Pentland Firth.

They must now submit detailed applications, spelling out how many devices they want to install in the water, by the end of May.

The Crown Estate will decide which are suitable, and the companies will then have to apply for planning permission from the Scottish Government.

Calum Duncan, Scottish conservation manager for the Marine Conservation Society, welcomed renewable technologies, but said the possible impact of the devices on sensitive seabed habitats must be considered, including the likely affect on mussel beds and feeding areas for fish, basking sharks and seabirds.

Liam McArthur, the Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson and MSP for Orkney, also welcomed the strong interest but had reservations. “This energetic stretch of water will be a challenging resource to tame,” he said.

“We still know relatively little about the Pentland Firth and what will happen when we start putting devices in the water there.

“While the Pentland Firth is often described as the Saudi Arabia of tidal power, the challenges it presents also make it the Mount Everest.”

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JAMES OWEN, National Geographic News, December 2, 2008

The race is officially on for a U.S. $15 million (10 million Euro) prize for harnessing the power of the oceans.

The winning marine renewable energy innovation would provide a serious energy alternative to burning fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.

Details of the Saltire Prize Challenge were announced Tuesday in Edinburgh by Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond.

The award will go to the team that “successfully demonstrates—in Scottish waters—the best commercially viable wave or tidal technology capable of providing electricity to thousands of homes.”

The winning team must supply this electricity using only the power of the sea for a continuous two-year period.

“It is Scotland’s energy challenge to the world—a challenge to the brightest and best minds worldwide to unleash their talents and push the frontiers of innovation in green marine energy,” Salmond said.

“The Saltire Prize has the potential to unlock Scotland’s vast marine energy wealth, putting our nation at the very forefront of the battle against climate change.”

The prize, named after the cross of St. Andrew on the Scottish national flag, was inspired by other innovation competitions such as the U.S. $10 million Ansari X Prize.

That contest led to the first private spacecraft launch in 2004.

“Saudi Arabia of Ocean Energy”

Scotland boasts a quarter of Europe’s tidal power potential, according to Salmond.

He described the Pentland Firth, a region between Scotland’s north coast and the Orkney Islands, as the “Saudi Arabia of renewable marine energy.”

Scotland aims to meet 50% of its electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020.

There’s also huge potential for ocean energy globally, said prize committee member Terry Garcia, executive vice president for mission programs for the National Geographic Society. “It’s not going to be the sole solution to our energy needs,” Garcia said, but “this will be one of the important pieces of the puzzle.” The main purpose of the competition is to act as a catalyst for innovation, Garcia added.

“It’s both about making marine energy economically viable and being able to produce it in a sustained way on a large scale,” he said.

Wave and Tidal Power

The two major types of ocean energy are wave and tidal energy.

Wave energy technology involves floating modules with internal generators, which produce electricity as they twist about on the sea surface.

Tidal energy harnesses tidal currents with arrays of underwater turbines similar to those that propel wind farms.

Tidal ranks among the most reliable renewable energies because tides are highly predictable, said AbuBakr Bahaj, head of the University of Southampton’s Sustainable Energy Research Group in the U.K.

“But wave energy is driven by wind, which is notoriously difficult to predict,” he said.

Even so, wave power may have the higher electricity-generating potential.

In Britain, for instance, it’s estimated that wave power could potentially provide 20% of the country’s total electricity supply, against 5-10%for tidal power, Bahaj said.

The scientist says the main technical challenge is to create reliable power installations that can operate in difficult marine environments for five to ten years without maintenance.

“You also need to have multiple devices working together at each site,” he said.

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CHRISTINE DELL’AMORE, National Geographic News, April 2, 2008

Scotland will offer the world’s largest prize to date for spurring advances in marine renewable energy, the country’s head of state announced today.

The Saltire Prize, of 20 million U.S. dollars, will go to innovators from any nation who design environmentally friendly ocean technology, such as better ways to harness tidal and wind power.

“This will ensure Scotland will be at the forefront of the battle against climate change and the move toward a new energy era,” Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond told an audience at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The competitors will demonstrate their inventions in Scotland.

Prize “Golden Age”

A new “golden age” in challenge prizes has inspired some of the most significant innovations in modern history, Salmond said.

For instance, the Ansari X-Prize for breakthroughs in human spaceflight saw a 200-U.S-million-dollar return in research and development on a 10-million-U.S.-dollar prize fund.

Salmond wanted to concentrate Scotland’s marine-energy prize on where it might do the most good, he told National Geographic News.

“[We made a] decision to target an aspect of renewables that on one hand has amazing potential but is still in its infancy,” he said.

“Looking at this array of prizes, renewables require an impetus, and this will electrify the renewables community and spur them on to greater effort.”

The country of five million also has natural resources “unrivaled” across Europe, such as 25 percent of the continent’s offshore wind resources and 10 percent of its wave potential, Salmond said.

The push for renewables comes in response to the looming threat of climate change, “the single most pressing issue facing the planet,” Salmond said at the announcement.

A huge glacier the size of Connecticut that broke free from the Antarctic ice shelf last month is only the latest warning sign, he added.

Terry Garcia, executive vice president for mission programs for the National Geographic Society, is one of the first two members of the Saltire prize committee.

“This award is designed to encourage the development of technology that could make a significant impact in our effort to control climate change,” Garcia told National Geographic News.

Renewable energy, unlike fossil fuels, does not produce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

Scotland has vowed to reduce its greenhouse gases by 50 percent by 2050 and to run its country on at least 30 percent renewables by 2011, Salmond said.

The country has made inroads: Sixteen percent of its energy already comes from alternative sources.

Even more remote communities, such as Eday Island, part of the Orkney Islands, are 95 percent reliant on homegrown energy.

Costly Endeavor

But Salmond acknowledged that Scotland “lags behind” other European countries in making this new energy boom accessible to its population.

He also pointed out that renewable energy can be costly to jumpstart.

That’s why he advocates a “mass deployment” strategy for renewables—for example, installing several wind-energy projects at once will help make such projects viable, he said.

Now is the time to make that technological leap that would usually take a generation and accomplish it in five or ten years, he added.

“By maximizing our own potential we can provide a scientific research boost for the whole of humankind.”

More details about the selection process will be provided on November 30, 2008, at an announcement at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.

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