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Ocean industry set to take off in 2011, research shows

According to IHS Emerging Energy Research, more than 45 wave and tidal prototypes are expected to be ocean tested in 2010 and 2011, signaling that the ocean power industry may be set to take off over the next year.

The research outlet estimates that more than 1,800 MW of ocean projects in 16 countries are in the pipeline. For reference, IHS said that only 12 projects were installed in 2009.

The UK is the world's leading market for ocean energy, with 300 MW of projects seeking to be installed over the next five years, according to IHS. Ireland, France, Portugal, South Korea, and Australia are also key ocean energy markets and will remain the industry's primary focus for the next decade, according to the study.

Of the various forms of ocean energy, tidal energy is poised to mature first, mostly due to the fact that major hydro players understand the technology and are starting to enter the industry. "The strong synergies between tidal turbine manufacturing and the hydro power industry have attracted major power sector OEMs," IHS Senior Renewable Power Analyst Marianne Boust said. Greater involvement by large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will help the ocean energy industry overcome its technological challenges and drive down costs.

Several key players active in Europe's offshore wind industry also are turning their attention to ocean energy as they scale their renewable portfolios, said IHS. Major European utilities — led by Iberdrola Renewables/Scottish Power Renewables, Vattenfall, RWE, and SSE — have an extensive presence in offshore wind, and each has expanded its offshore activities to include ocean energy, IHS says.

Wave Hub marine energy project plugged into national grid

The Wave Hub marine energy project off the Cornish coast has been plugged into the national grid for the first time as part of tests to convert wave power into electricity.

A 12-ton Wave Hub socket has been installed on the seabed 10 miles (16 km) off the coast of Cornwall, England, with cables linking it to a new electricity substation. Wave power devices can be connected to Wave Hub and their performance evaluated.

Guy Lavender, Wave Hub's general manager, said: "We've been continually testing the integrity of the whole system during the installation process. Yesterday [November 2] was the first time it was fully energized and plugged into the grid, and I'm delighted to say that it went without a hitch."

The £42 million (US$64.36 million) project has been developed by the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA) and is a cornerstone of its strategy to develop a world-class marine energy industry in South West England.

Wave Hub is being funded by the Southwest RDA, European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme, and the UK government.

Metso to automate ocean-surge-based demo plant in Portugal

Finland-based Metso will develop and supply an automation system to AW-Energy Ltd.'s demo power plant, the first in the world to generate electricity from the surge, a form of ocean energy, Metso announced.

The company will expand its present pilot equipment to a 300 kW demonstration plant in Peniche, Portugal, during 2011. The renewable energy harnessed from the Atlantic Ocean will be transferred through a sea cable to the national grid.

AW-Energy has developed the WaveRoller technology to harness wave energy. The equipment is anchored on the sea bottom at a depth of 10 to 20 meters and takes advantage of the back-and-forth movement of the surge. Sustainability of the new technology is proven by the fact that the demo plant was granted its construction permit in Portugal's Natura 2000, classified as a special protected area (SPA) in Europe, according to a press release.

Metso will supply a Metso DNA automation system to this unmanned plant to control its operation around the clock. The delivery includes an information system to analyze the prevailing wave conditions. Both systems are the first of their kind in the world, a press release states.

AW-Energia Ltd., headquartered in Vantaa, Finland, designs, manufactures, and develops advanced wave energy technology.

Feasibility studies planned for tidal project in Argentina

The governor of the Argentine province of Santa Cruz has signed an agreement with representatives of Enarsa Energia and Gentersa to study the feasibility of installing a tidal power plant, according to a report in El Cronista Comercial.

The plant is expected to have a capacity of 50 MW and to cost about $150 million, according to local media reports.

Scotland investing big in marine energy research

The North of Scotland is spending £14 million (US$22 million) on marine energy-related skills development and research projects.

Centering on marine energy and the environment, the projects will be based at the North Highland College in Thurso, Scotland. This facility is beside the Pentland Firth, one of Europe's principal marine energy resources. The college will develop the research projects, as well as a new Centre for Energy and the Environment and a Centre for Engineering Skills.

The Centre for Energy and the Environment will be used to deliver a £4 million ($6.3 million) research project. Known as the Marine Renewable Energy and the Environment project, it will be built near Oban in Argyll and led by the Environmental Research Institute at North Highland College, in collaboration with the Scottish Association for Marine Science. The project will focus on issues surrounding marine energy development in Scotland, such as grid constraints, design expertise, environmental effects, and synergies between oil and renewables. In addition, the Environmental Research Institute will spend £3 million ($4.7 million) to expand its premises through construction of a new campus building.

The remaining £7 million ($11 million) will be spent to construct the Centre for Engineering Skills. This center will become a hub to support vocational skills for science and engineering developments.

Funding comes from the European Regional Development Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, University of the Highlands and Islands, Scottish Funding Council, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and Highland Council.

OPT gets US$2.75 million in funding from Navy

Marine hydro firm Ocean Power Technologies Inc. (OPT) says it has received US$2.75 million in additional funding from the U.S. Navy for a second stage of development under its existing contract to provide an autonomous PowerBuoy wave energy conversion system for the Navy's near-coast anti-terrorism and maritime surveillance program.

The new award follows the successful completion by OPT of the first stage of a four-year $15 million project for the Navy's Littoral Expeditionary Autonomous PowerBuoy (LEAP) program. OPT is located in Pennington, New Jersey, USA.

Anaconda converter consists of large rubber tube

Checkmate Seaenergy Ltd. is moving forward on development of its Anaconda wave energy converter. The next step is to begin engineering development of a prototype device, says Des Crampton, chief executive of Checkmate Seaenergy.

The technology is based on a rubber tube and is called Anaconda because of its snake-like appearance, Crampton says. The device consists of a tube designed to be anchored just below the ocean surface, with one end facing the oncoming waves. As waves travel down the tube, they create pressure. At high pressure, water passes through a set of non-return valves into an accumulator, where pressure is allowed to build up. A smoothed flow of water then passes from the accumulator into a conventional hydraulic turbine that drives an electrical generator. The water exiting the turbine is accepted into a low-pressure accumulator and is then drawn through another set of non-return valves back into the main tube during the low-pressure part of the cycle.

When it is developed, a full-scale device is expected to be 200 meters long and 7 meters in diameter and deployed in water depths of 40 to 100 meters.

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