Making a splash: Group prepares to launch novel wave energy system

The project involves attaching a generator and power converter to a buoy located off the Northumberland coast.

A group at Newcastle University is preparing to install a prototype Wave Energy Converter (WEC) in the North Sea.

MU-EDRIVE features amongst eight projects funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Wave energy can be considered a concentrated form of solar energy, says the group. The sun heats land which results in hot air rising and causing wind, and as the wind blows across the sea surface, it creates an oscillating up-down movement in the water.

MU-EDRIVE aims to demonstrate the marinisation and upscaling of All Electric Drive Trains for wave energy converters. The Newcastle team will install a generator and power converter to a buoy mounted 3km off the Northumberland coast at Blyth in Spring 2024 for a 12-month period.

Once installed, the prototype WEC will provide operational data to measure the effectiveness of the approach.

It will also test the newest corrosion and anti-fouling technologies, helping progress an understanding of the robustness of WECs in situ. The Edinburgh team will design, build and test a magnetic gear in partnership with Mocean Energy to demonstrate upscaling of electrical power take-off systems.

The project will also aim to show how marinisation and magnetic gearing technology can be scaled up to larger power levels and integrated more fully into wave energy converters.

Led by Newcastle University’s Dr Nick Baker, MU-EDRIVE is a collaboration between Dr Serkan Turkman and Professor Jeff Neasham at Newcastle University and Professor Markus Mueller from the University of Edinburgh. It follows the successful collaboration between Edinburgh and Newcastle on the MEC-EDRIVE project funded by EPSRC as part of a previous wave energy funding call.

The FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility at the Unviersity of Edinburgh, one of the collaborators in the MEC-EDRIVE project.

Baker, a Reader in Emerging Electrical Machines and Senior Lecturer, commented: “With regards to achieving the ambitious goal of net zero by 2050, it is essential to look at the energy system as a whole. Wave energy originates from solar energy as the sun heats the land, the land heats the air to create wind and wind creates waves. Wave energy can therefore be considered as ‘energy dense’ and could be a significant factor in moving away from traditional energy sources.

“The upscaling aim of the MU-EDRIVE project will help to reduce costs of energy production as devices get larger, making the energy both easier and more affordable for access and usage. It’s hard to know what a wave energy device will look like in 10 years’ time. Thinking back to 10 years ago, offshore wind turbine technologies were in their infancy – this could be the same for wave energy now.”