Wave Power In Europe Continues To Rock Along

When we first wrote about Wave Hub more than a year ago we said it was like a “giant socket” that new wave power devices could plug in to for real-world testing 10 miles off Britain’s Cornwall coast. Turns out it’s a four-plug socket—and already two of plugs are spoken for as Europe continues to demonstrate how serious it is about making marine power a reality.

Wave Hub said the Irish company OceanEnergy reached an agreement to test its OE Buoy in the platform. The company had been testing a quarter-scale prototype of its device at Galway Bay, Ireland., but for the full-scale version it was lured to the big connection at Wave Hub, where a 15-mile-long subsea cable that weighs 1,300 tons provides a connection to the national grid.

Ocean Energy OE Buoy Wave Hub

image via OceanEnergy

“OceanEnergy has completed three years of prototype testing in energetic sea conditions and is ready to make the next step to Wave Hub with a full-scale device,” Wave Hub General Manager Claire Gibson said in a statement. “If the testing goes well, we expect to see OceanEnergy deploy an array of devices at Wave Hub.”

Gibson said supporting OceanEnergy’s deployment would allow Wave Hub to fully test their operational procedures and establish the process for securing a marine license, boosting further deployments at the test center. Cork-based Ocean Energy said it expects to deploy the OE Buoy, at cost a of €9 million, at Wave Hub by the end of this year.

The OceanEnergy device is yet another unique, innovate take on producing power from the water. The company says the key to the product is its simplicity, which allows it to survive the harsh ocean environment. “The result of 10 years of research and development is that the OE Buoy has only a single moving part and has just completed over three years of rigorous testing in Atlantic waves,” the company says on its website. “To work in such a hostile environment the platform must be designed to extract energy from the waves efficiently and also survive the worst of ocean storms.”

The OE Buoy floats partially submerged on the water’s surface. In the underwater portion are open chambers where water can enter. The force of the water entering the chamber pushes air upward through a turbine, turning the turbine to produce electricity. The water receding and exiting the chamber keeps the turbine going, creating a continuous process. Check it out:

The other company set to deploy at Wave Hub is Ocean Power Technologies, the same company that is pursuing an Oregon wave energy project. OPT’s plan is to install an array of PowerBuoys totaling up to 5 MW at Wave Hub over several years.

Wave Hub is just one of three testing sites either working or being developed around the United Kingdom. There’s the European Marine Energy Center in Scotland’s Orkney Islands, where a number of companies are setting up shop with their devices. And there’s Fab Test, a recently announced project in Falmouth Bay, on the south coast of Cornwall.

Similar to Wave Hub, FabTest will provide a site for developers to conduct sea trials of their of wave energy generation devices. Unlike the other sites, FabTest is situated in moderate seas close to port facilities, and will not be grid-connected. The site will have the capacity to test up to three devices at a time, and is intended to be a “stepping stone” for developers hoping to deploy their devices at Wave Hub.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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