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Orkney on the crest of a wave of ocean energy

The wild waters around the Orkney Islands have ensured the northern reaches of Scotland  are in the first wave of developments in the ocean energy sector.

The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), based in Stromness, Orkney’s second largest town, will be the project leader of a new €12.8m project allowing developers of marine renewable technologies to test their products or services in real sea environments. The Interreg NWE project, Ocean DEMO, will specifically target multi-machine ocean energy installations, allowing developers to demonstrate their technologies at full commercial scale.

The wind and waves in Orkney, an archipelago 10 miles beyond the northern edge of Scotland, have seen it become a leader in renewable energies, with the islands now producing more electricity than they can use.

EMEC is a major player in this transformation, providing a plug-and-play site for testing prototype wave and tide energy generators – with the aid of a local community of renewable, maritime and environmental expertise.

This mix of natural assets and knowledge has seen Scotland become a major leader in the energy sector, with ever-increasing impact in the renewables sector. As well as Orkney’s EMEC, other dedicated ocean energy research centres include the MeyGen Pentland Firth Tidal Array. Scottish universities supporting the sector include the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Marine Energy Research Innovation and Knowledge Accelerator MERIKA, and the University of Strathclyde’s Wind & Marine Energy Systems Centre.

Scottish capital Edinburgh is host to the annual Ocean Energy Europe Conference & Exhibition, a meeting point for more than 400 professionals from over 20 countries.

Ocean DEMO is seen as a critical phase in the ocean energy sector, following on from the highly successful FORESEA project, which provides free access to open sea test centres for single machine testing.

Oliver Wragg, Commercial Director at EMEC, said: “With Ocean DEMO, we will be able to scale up technologies to pilot farm scale. This will reduce technical risks, minimise environmental impacts and improve the economic competitiveness of ocean energy production. We’re looking forward to collaborating with ocean energy innovators across Europe and help them get machines in the water.”

Ocean DEMO will also provide free access to other open sea test centres: DMEC – Dutch Marine Energy Centre, Netherlands, SEM-REV, France, SmartBay Ireland. This year will see a first call for applications, with devices will be installed from 2020 to 2022.

Industry group Ocean Energy Europe will channel the project’s achievements and learnings to its international network of ocean energy professionals.

Rémi Gruet, CEO of Ocean Energy Europe, said: “The ocean energy industry can provide jobs to 400,000 Europeans as well as 10% of Europe’s electricity by 2050. Ocean DEMO will be another significant step towards those objectives.”

(EMEC, The Guardian, VisitScotland)