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Marine hydropower test center EMEC completes expansion

The Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre, a test center for commercial-scale wave and tidal energy hydropower devices, announced it has completed an expansion project, increasing its set of test sites from nine to 12.

Two tidal berths have been added to make seven, and a fifth wave power test berth has also been created, EMEC reported.

International tidal power developers Atlantis Resources Corporation and Voith Hydro Ocean Current Technologies are among the firms that have contracted to begin installing turbine prototypes on the new tidal berths.

Finnish company Wello Oy is preparing to trial a wave energy device next year. Norway-based marine hydropower developer Hammerfest Strom recently announced contracts worth 4 million pounds (US$6.2 million) to construct the first of their advanced HS1000 tidal power turbines in Scotland. The 1-MW turbine will be installed at EMEC next year.

The 5 million pound (US$7.75 million) expansion, involving laying more than two miles of subsea cabling, comes just three months after the center announced its identification of some wave and tidal "nursery sites." These will be developed to meet international demand from businesses with smaller prototypes, plugging the gap between test tanks and full ocean conditions.

EMEC Managing Director Neil Kermode said: "These moves ensure that Scotland's Highlands and Islands stay right in the global forefront of marine energy as it accelerates. Our full-scale sites were almost full to capacity, but, having created new space for other devices, we now still have room for new wave and tidal developers."

Since its inception in 2004 as the first full-scale, grid-connected test facility in the world, EMEC has attracted 11 device developers, including Pelamis Wave Power, Aquamarine Power, OpenHydro and Tidal Generation Limited.

The center's tidal test area, off the island of Eday, was chosen for its high-speed currents which can reach almost 8 knots. The wave test facility, on the western edge of Orkney's mainland, has some of the highest wave energy in Europe.

Funding of EMEC's development, coordinated by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, has involved partners including the Scottish and UK governments, Scottish Enterprise, Orkney Islands Council, the Carbon Trust and European Commission. Funding from the UK Government's Department of Energy and Climate Change allowed creation of the new test berths.

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