European first as £5m wave-power test centre opens
EUROPE’s first centre for testing pioneering developments aimed at harnessing wave and tidal power has been officially opened, providing a major boost for Scotland’s fledgling renewable energy industry.
The 5.65 million European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) on Orkney will, it is claimed, help Scotland become a global leader in producing green energy using the power of the sea in an industry that could eventually lead to the creation of 7,000 new jobs north of the Border.
The centre, among the first of its type in the world, will provide a unique one-stop facility for the industry to test wave-energy generators and other devices and measure their potential output in realistic conditions.
Its aim is to stimulate and accelerate the development of marine power devices in Scotland, providing home-based companies with a head start in exploiting wave and, later, tidal energy technologies.
The centre was officially opened by Jim Wallace, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, who hailed the establishment of the site as the "dawn of a new era for energy production in Scotland".
Mr Wallace, who is also the Liberal Democrat MSP for Orkney, said: "Today is a hugely significant landmark in the development of renewable energy both for Scotland and the world.
"By providing world-class facilities here in Orkney, we will be in a prime position to capitalise on the enormous opportunities provided by this rapidly developing and expanding sector. Indeed, Orkney itself has been identified as probably the best location in Europe for testing commercial-scale devices."
Mr Wallace continued: "Opening EMEC is just the first stage in ensuring the marine energy industry develops and achieves its potential here in Scotland. The ongoing success of this centre will be pivotal to the growth of the marine energy sector both in Scotland and throughout the world. A number of developers have already expressed a firm interest in testing their devices here."
He claimed: "We have a unique and exciting opportunity for Scotland to grab the lead in developing marine energy. EMEC is a vital step along the way to ensuring we take full advantage of this opportunity and the benefits it will bring."
Mr Wallace said he was convinced that Scotland’s renewables future would depend heavily on wave and tidal energy.
"Success in growing the sector will help us to meet our renewables targets and help protect our environment by reducing emissions and tackling climate change.
"Marine energy also has the potential to create significant numbers of jobs here in Scotland, many of them in remoter areas, such as the Highlands and Islands. The recent Marine Energy Group report suggested that up to 7,000 jobs could be supported in both direct and indirectly related industries."
EMEC is centred around two main sites on Orkney - one a control and switchgear centre at Billia Croo, which is connected to both the UK electricity grid and four offshore testing berths, while EMEC’s main offices and data centre is situated in the Old Academy, in Stromness.
The centre has already secured its first major customer, the Leith-based company Ocean Power Delivery (OPD), which has developed a full-scale prototype of its Pelamis wave-energy converter, known as the "Sea Snake", and will be using EMEC for an independent evaluation of the power it produces.
The 750-watt Pelamis device is 120 metres long by 3.5 metres in diameter - the size of four train carriages - and weighs 750 tonnes.
Dr Richard Yemm, the managing director of OPD, said: "The test centre is a shining example of what can be achieved through timely and appropriate action from the public sector in response to the needs of industry, and cements Scotland’s position at the forefront of this exciting new sector. Through further targeted public and private measures, testing carried out at the site will form the platform for an early move to commercial scale demonstration of our technology."
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