Wave Energy Scotland mark major milestone with Mocean Blue X unveiling

Scotland’s wave energy industry is on course to take a big step forward, with Edinburgh-based developer Mocean Energy ready to deploy its scale prototype Blue X wave machine at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney.

Mocean Energy’s Blue X device is already in place at Forth Ports in Rosyth, where it is being ballasted and wet-tested before being taken by lorry to Aberdeen and by freight ferry to Orkney and onto EMEC’s Scapa Flow test site. EMEC is a global centre of expertise, having hosted 30 different wave and tidal technology demonstrations, more than any other site in the world.

Blue X is a prototype design that features a hinged raft with a unique geometry. It provides learning for both Mocean’s small-scale product line Blue Star and its utility scale product line, Blue Horizon that aims to deliver reliable green energy to transmission networks around the world. Blue X has been manufactured at Cowdenbeath-based fabricators AJS Production, with funding from Wave Energy Scotland’s Novel Wave Energy Converter programme.

According to Wave Energy Scotland (WES), the body set up in 2014 to ensure the country maintains a leading role in the development of marine energy, this is a significant breakthrough for the entire industry.

The Blue X device is revealed at Rosyth

Tim Hurst, WES managing director, says: “For Mocean Energy to reach this stage, along with everything else that’s happening in the sector this year, represents a culmination of a lot of work by WES and all the developers that have been involved in taking a concept to prototype stage and on to real sea demonstration. It’s a really significant moment.

“Going back to when we were formed in 2014, we were given the task of proving that wave energy can really work. This demonstrates that wave energy is a viable technology for the future.”

Mocean Energy is one of many companies that has received financial and other support from WES. In total WES has funded 95 contracts, made investments of almost £42 million and been involved with 230 different organisations across 13 different countries.

WES’s funding of £5m for Mocean Energy covered the development costs for the Blue X, but Hurst explains that WES offered more than financial support. “We’ve provided Mocean Energy with a framework to help them de-risk their technology. This has removed the commercial pressures that have led to previous wave developers to go too big, too soon,” says Hurst.

Mocean’s Cameron McNatt and Wave Energy Scotland’s Tim Hurst christen the device with a bottle of Highland Park whisky

He adds: “We have also given Mocean Energy access to a large pool of talent and capability and built a successful consortium that has helped get them to this point.”

The most high-profile failures in the earlier stages of wave energy development in Scotland were Pelamis and Aquamarine Power which went into administration in 2014 and 2015 respectively, massively denting investor confidence in the sector.

Dr Cameron McNatt, co-founder and managing director of Mocean Energy, agrees that WES has played a vital role in helping re-build belief in the sector. “When WES was created in 2015 the industry was at a real low point. A lot of people had lost faith in wave energy and investors has been turned off.”

Dr McNatt describes its Blue X device reaching the stage of being wet tested at Rosyth before it is moved to Orkney as a “huge milestone”. He says: “Ultimately it’s all about building something that goes into the water and generates energy from ocean waves. All the work we’ve done to date has been desk-based, along with testing small models in wave tanks.

Wave Energy Scotland’s Tim Hurst at the unveiling of Blue X

“We’ve been working really hard on this project for the last two years. This is a good opportunity for the whole Mocean team and all the subcontractors to celebrate, but there’s still a lot to be done in testing the technology to make sure it’s going to work perfectly.”

When Blue X arrives at EMEC’s Scapa Flow site it will be put into the water and hooked up to moorings.

Matthew Finn, EMEC commercial director, explains data will be gathered around Blue X’s performance, such as the incoming wave resource, and it will with Mocean Energy to make any improvements.

He says: “Each test at EMEC is a culmination of a number of years of development and investment, so it’s extremely exciting to see the Mocean technology arrive in Orkney and we are looking forward to seeing it put through its paces.”

He adds: “Technologies graduating out of WES should be investor ready and EMEC will give them its full support to help breakthrough into the marketplace, and this marketplace is right on our doorstep with Scotland alone having 10% of Europe’s entire wave energy potential.”

With the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, ‘Tidal Stream Wave Energy Cost Reduction and Industrial Benefit' report published in 2018 calculating that wave energy would have a net cumulative benefit to the UK by 2040 of £4 billion, the potential benefits to the Scottish economy of such advances in the sector are clear to see.