Inventor of ‘sea snake’ wave-energy machine wins Saltire medal

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The inventor of a “sea snake” energy device that Alex Salmond hopes will help drive his renewables revolution has been awarded the Scottish Government’s Saltire Prize medal.

Dr Richard Yemm, the man behind the Pelamis system, collected the award from the First Minister in Edinburgh last night.

Richard Yemm shows UK climate change minister Greg Barker the Pelamis

Richard Yemm shows UK climate change minister Greg Barker the Pelamis

Dr Yemm founded Pelamis Wave Power in Edinburgh in 1998. The first generation of sea snakes suffered technical problems in Portugal, but a second generation has proved a success after being tested near Orkney.

Dr Yemm said: “It is a huge honour to be presented with this prestigious award, which I am delighted to accept on behalf of all who have worked tirelessly alongside me over the years to deliver on this once in a generation opportunity for Scottish engineering and industry.

“This is an individual award, but wherever you look across this exciting new sector you can see exceptional individuals working together as one team to deliver on the ‘win-win’ of clean energy and economic development opportunity that marine energy represents.”

The Pelamis machine consists of a series of semi-submerged cylindrical sections linked by hinged joints.

As waves pass along the length of the machine, the sections move relative to one another, causing hydraulic cylinders to pump high pressure oil through motors, which drive generators to produce electricity.

Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart said: “Richard Yemm will be looked upon as one of the most influential people to the development of Scotland’s marine industry.”

The SNP government wants all of Scotland’s electricity provided by renewables, such as wind, wave and marine power, by the end of the decade. However, sceptics say the target is unachieveable and subsidies will push up domestic energy bills.

Last night, Mr Salmond said: “I am delighted to present Richard Yemm with the Saltire Prize medal, an accolade which he richly deserves for his tireless commitment to the development of wave energy generation.

“Since forming the initial concept of the Pelamis wave energy converter and establishing the company in 1998, Richard has driven forward the technical and commercial development of Pelamis Wave Power, which now boasts major international utilities E.ON, ScottishPower and Vattenfall among its customers.”

Mr Salmond also announced that Terry Garcia, executive vice-president of the National Geographic Society, has agreed to chair the Saltire Prize Challenge committee and Neil Kermode, managing director of the European Marine Energy Centre will be its deputy chairman.

The Saltire Prize is a £10 million award which will go to the team that can demonstrate, in Scottish waters, a commercially viable wave or tidal stream energy technology that achieves the greatest volume of electrical output over the set minimum hurdle of 100GWh over a continuous two-year period.

Mr Garcia added: “The Saltire Prize Challenge is testament to the Scottish Government’s commitment to this sector and the companies in Scotland who are already leading the world to harness wave and tidal energy.

“I am delighted that this innovation in Scotland has been rewarded with the presentation of this year’s Saltire Prize medal to Richard Yemm.”