“In two weeks we face the full brunt of the South Westerlies and we’ll see what the sea is going to do to us.” Simon Gillett has a habit of talking about the device his company, Wave-tricity, has created as an extension of himself. This must be a nerve-wracking time. The Ocean Wave Rower, launched into West Wales’s Milford Haven estuary in March, is undergoing a period of initial testing before it gets towed out to the open seas. It’s an attempt to crack one of the toughest engineering problems in renewable energy: how to extract usable energy from the ocean waves, and do it affordably. While wind and solar power have grown into major industries over the past decade, so-called marine renewables – technologies to harness the power of the oceans – have struggled to get established. Earlier this year, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) warned that wave power was far too costly and should not be a priority for renewable energy development. But that has not stopped the nascent industry from pushing ahead with trials. As well as the start of Wave-tricity’s experiment, March saw Finnish company Wello Oy launch its boat-shaped wave energy converter at a test site off Orkney. Australian company Carnegie, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with its £60m project, initiated last November, to test energy-generating buoys in Cornwall, with commissioning expected in 2018. If it keeps its nerve, the UK has a chance of being the world leader in a future wave and tidal power industry, says Neil Kermode, managing director of the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. The country’s research in the field is currently ahead of the rest of the world, he says But he points to the history of wind energy as a cautionary tale. “When [the UK] did experimental work [on wind energy]…we moved the whole game on enormously,” he says. “And then we lost our nerve. In the meantime the Danes and the Germans stayed with it.” A decade down the line, he continues, German and Danish companies like Siemens and Vestas dominated the global market.
Guardian 5th April 2017 read more »