Last week it was all systems go for marine energy engineers in Scotland with a multitude of events to choose from. From reliability analysis workshops to research updates, from industry award ceremonies to innovation networking events, from the Wave Energy Scotland’s 1st formal conference to the Wave Energy Club’s more informal 1st event, the stage was set for a great week of networking, collaboration and celebration.
Never before in my career as a marine renewables engineer have I experienced such a sense of collaboration and positivity towards the marine renewables sector in Scotland across such a range of events in such a short space of time and, I have to say, the positivity was contagious. You couldn’t help but feel buoyed by the collaborative conversations and development discussions being held all around you.
For me, the week started in earnest on Wednesday with the Reliability in a Sea of Risk (RiaSoR) workshop and CPD event in Glasgow. This two-day event, concentrated on the uncertainties associated with calculations of component or system life and how, as engineers, this can be appropriately taken into account by applying the Variability Mode and Effect Analysis (VMEA) methodology. It was great to be talking about such an important subject for marine renewables with numerous other engineers, sharing our ideas and thoughts. Reliability is a key issue in the marine renewables industry given the difficulties of access for maintenance. In previous work at Pelamis Wave Power Limited the Quoceant team, experienced first-hand the highs and lows of technology development and we learnt how to design for long-term reliability and the various intricacies and sensitivities of the reliability of different components in overall device reliability. Tackling this issue head-on will be a key factor in the industry’s success and bodies like EMEC, Innovate UK, and ORE Catapult will no doubt play a major part in driving this conversation forward
On Wednesday evening it was the first meeting of the newly created Wave Energy Club - a new organisation intending to bring together those interested in ocean wave energy in an informal, accessible, and social setting. The purpose of the club is to help build networks in a social setting to foster the strong relationships and trust needed for sharing ideas. It was a resounding success!
Thursday saw the annual glittering spectacle that is The Green Energy Awards and the Ocean Power Innovation Network events in Edinburgh. Fast-forward to Friday though, and the Wave Energy Scotland 1st Annual Conference. It was a bit strange being back in my old university halls of residence for a work conference so many years later but, as for the Wave Energy Club, the atmosphere was upbeat and one of optimism. The wealth of information provided in the short 3 minute pitches for each individual WES project was impressive. One of Quoceant’s own, Ross Henderson, was the keynote speaker and his presentation on the control systems for wave energy convertors certainly provided much food for thought to the audience. For me, his last comment summed the issues of control implementation on WECs up in a nutshell; control theory will only get you so far, it’s the real-world factors that then come into play that can catch people out.
On the subject of real-life issues, the vast range of operating conditions in which Wave Energy Convertors must work means one of the big challenges in wave energy is hitting the correct compromise between performance and survivability. Breaking the conflict between these two important design factors is the driver behind Quoceant’s inflatable hull technology and the subject of our Novel WEC project for WES. The basic concept is that we can change a WEC’s hull volume on demand by inflating/deflating large inflatable structures attached to a rigid hull core. Our previous experience developing the Pelamis device has meant that we complete performance tests on a line-absorber system but the technology is equally applicable to other WEC concepts. Updating the conference on the progress we’ve made developing this new technology generated much interest, especially when we released the synchronised videos of the high and low volume hull tests in the same waves in the wave tank
The reduced motion of the low volume (deflated) configuration compared to the high volume (inflated) configuration is stark. Results from these tests indicate that the joint specifications (angle and moment) required for power capture in moderate seas are not dissimilar to those required for survivability in storm conditions. The joint design can thus be much more efficient and cost effective, thus providing a step-change in Cost of Energy. We have shown the concept is eminently feasible through the stage 1 project; a stage 2 programme to develop the project further will include impact assessments for types of WEC other than a line absorber – please get in touch if you are interested in the concept and it’s possible applications to your own project.