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Queen's energy partnership makes waves for UK

The likelihood of the UK being able to produce widespread energy from wave-generated power has been given a vital boost.

Aquamarine Power Limited, a marine energy company, and Queen’s University Belfast have agreed a new five year research partnership which will develop the next generation hydro-electric wave power converter.

Already the partnership has created the Oyster® wave power device. It is designed to capture the energy found in amplified surge forces in nearshore waves.

The first prototype of Oyster®, a hydro-electric wave power converter, is to be launched at sea for the first time this summer at the European Marine Energy Centre off the coast of Orkney.

The Oyster® system consists of a simple steel Oscillating Wave Surge Converter, or pump, fitted with double acting water pistons, deployed near-shore in depths around 10-12m. Each passing wave activates the pump; which delivers high pressure water via a sub-sea pipeline to the shore. Onshore, high-pressure water is converted to electrical power using proven, conventional hydro-electric generators. The nearshore location is easy to access; and the most complex part of the system is onshore, so it is accessible 365 days a year.

The latest five-year deal will see Aquamarine work alongside the Environmental Engineering Research Centre at Queen’s. The team from Aquamarine will model several devices in the state-of-the-art wave tanks in the University’s Civil Engineering Department and at the Marine Biology Centre at Portaferry.

Led by Professor Trevor Whittaker, from the Queen’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, the Wave Power Research Group is regarded as being among the best marine renewable energy groups in the world.

The team will monitor loading, survivability and how the devices interact with each other to guarantee continuous power output in all sea states.

The Partnership will also provide Aquamarine with access to a second, larger wave tank due to open at Queen’s Portaferry facility which is being part-funded through the University’s Institute for a Sustainable World initiative.

The Portaferry facility will allow the team to test groups of wave power devices which can be deployed in large numbers to form off-shore power stations.

Professor Trevor Whittaker, Head of the Wave Power Research Centre and a world-renowned expert on wave power and coastal engineering said: “My team at Queen’s specialises in the application of fundamental research to industrial development, therefore I am very pleased to strengthen our links with Aquamarine Power.

“It provides focus for the work of our research students, giving them an opportunity to participate in cutting edge research that will benefit society and the environment for current and future generations.”

Martin McAdam, Chief Executive of Aquamarine said: “I am delighted to announce Aquamarine’s continuing relationship with Queen’s University Belfast’s team. Professor Trevor Whittaker is an award-winning expert in wave energy research. He and his group have tested and deployed more devices in their time than any other research facility in the world.

“This agreement creates a fantastic opportunity on two fronts. Firstly it provides Aquamarine with access to the University’s world-class wave power test facilities, enabling Aquamarine to continue to enhance the design of Oyster® as a market leading technology, and as importantly, gives us access to the brightest PhD students in this field.”

Lisa Mitchell | alfa
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