March 7, 2009 A new milestone for marine energy was achieved recently when UK based Wave and Tidal Technologies company Aquamarine Power Ltd signed a 1,000 MW (1 GW) Development Agreement with the renewable energy development division of Scottish and Southern Energy, Airtricity.

Aquamarine was the first marine Energy Company in the UK to develop both wave and tidal power devices simultaneously. Their Wave Power device, called Oyster, is a near shore hydroelectric wave power system. Still at the full scale prototype stage, the Oyster is based around a large movable buoyant barrier structure that is mounted on the seabed in depths of 10 – 12 m (33 – 40 ft) and pivots like a gate. The barrier looks like 5 large pipes stacked horizontally on top of each other to form a wall. As waves crash against the barrier it moves backwards and forwards pivoting at it’s base. The barrier is connected to a double acting water piston and by using simple hydraulic principles wave energy is converts into high pressure water that is pumped on shore to drive a conventional hydro electric generator to produce electricity.

The peak power generated by each Oyster barrier is between 300 and 600kw. The system can be deployed in arrays with several pumps feeding into a single manifold pipeline to drive a hydroelectric generator of up to 21 megawatts.

The Oscillating Wave Surge Converter have secured a test berth at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) wave test facility in the Orkney Islands off the Scottish north coast. The EMEC wave site has one of the highest wave energy potentials in Europe, if not the world. The exposed North Sea location means the island group is subjected to the powerful dynamic forces of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The system is currently being tank tested under a five-year research partnership with Queen’s University Belfast in Ireland. The Queens Research Group is regarded as being among the best marine renewable energy groups in the world and the Oyster system will be the Centre's sixth wave power sea trial.

Paul Evans

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