The world’s largest working hydro-electric wave energy device has been officially launched in Scotland. Known as Oyster, the device, stationed at the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) Billia Croo site near Stromness, was installed this year and is, at present, the world’s only hydro-electric wave energy device which is producing power.

Oyster produces power by pumping high pressure water to its onshore hydro-electric turbine which feeds into the national grid to power homes in nearby Orkney and beyond.

The device is wave energy company Aquamarine Power’s first demonstration-scale wave energy device. The company believes that a farm of 20 Oysters would provide enough energy to power 9,000 three bedroom family homes.

Oyster is designed to capture the energy found in near-shore waves in water depths between 10-16m (33-54ft). There are minimal moving parts and all electrical components are onshore, making it robust enough to withstand the rigors of Scotland’s harsh seas.

Speaking at the launch, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond MP, MSP, who was given the honor of switching on Oyster, said: “I’m delighted to see first-hand the full-scale Oyster now installed and operating offshore. This is a key milestone for Aquamarine Power and for Scotland’s marine renewables sector.

“Scotland's potential renewables capacity is estimated to be around 60GW. Our waters hold around ten percent of Europe’s wave power potential and as much as a quarter of its tidal power potential. The EMEC provides world-leading test facilities for Aquamarine and other companies to develop the technology needed to harness this huge untapped potential.

“I am delighted to confirm further R&D funding of almost £1m (US$1.66 million approx.) to Aquamarine Power for the development of Oyster 2, which could be installed within two years.”

Minister Salmond added that the Scottish Government was working to ensure it capitalized on its rich natural resources that would help it meets its ambitious climate change targets and would create more high-skilled green jobs. The marine energy industry could provide as many as 12,500 jobs, contributing £2.5 billion (US$4.1 billion) to the UK economy by 2020. Marine energy such as that produced by Oyster has the potential to meet up to 20 per cent of the UK's energy demands.

Chief Executive Officer of Aquamarine Power, Martin McAdam, said: “This is a fantastic day for the wave energy industry and for Aquamarine Power. We have proved what we always believed – that wave energy can produce sustainable zero-emission electricity to power our homes. The UK has one of the best wave resources in the world. Now it also has the best technology.

He said that with the additional funding, Aquamarine Power would press ahead with the development of next-generation commercial-scale Oyster.

“This is exactly the kind of support the industry needs. With continued support of this nature we can help decarbonise our electricity supply and build a major, world-beating industry here in the UK.”

Managing Director of EMEC, Neil Kermode, said EMEC was delighted to see Oyster up and running.

“I look forward to Oyster being joined by many more machines in the coming years,” he said.

Its performance will now be monitored and the results from the testing will provide a basis for the design of the next-generation commercial-scale Oyster.

Watch a short video of Oyster in situ here or see an outline of how it works below: