France’s Alstom and Scotland’s SSE Renewables, on Jan. 17, announced the world’s largest ocean wave energy development project to date. The partners’ plan for the Costa Head Wave project calls for floating arrays of AWS Ocean Energy’s AWS-III wave turbines with total clean, renewable electricity-generating capacity as high as 200 megawatts (MW) to be installed in waters ranging from 60-75 meters (198-247.5 feet) deep about 5 kilometers off the coast of Orkney Main Island, according to a joint press release.
It will likely require three or more years of dedicated effort to get to the large-scale deployment stage, however. The Costa Head project will serve as the commercial proving ground for the full-scale, 2.5-MW AWS-III floating wave energy devices and AWS Ocean Energy system. A 1:9-scale prototype underwent testing at Loch Ness in 2010. Full-scale component testing is due to take place this year with support from the WATERS fund administered by Scottish Enterprise, and full-scale prototype testing is planned to take place at the European Marine Energy Centre in 2014.
The AWS-III Floating Wave Turbine and Marine Power Array
Weighing in at less than 1,300 metric tons, each 2.5-MW AWS-III unit consists of an array of 12 interconnected cells that measure around 16m wide x 8m deep. The cells are arranged around a core structure with an overall beam of up to 60m.
Each multi-cell AWS-III array consists of flexible membranes that absorb the power of waves and convert it to pneumatic power by compressing the air in each cell, which are interconnected in “anti-phase.” Turbine generator sets convert the pneumatic power to electricity.
Individual AWS-III units will be slack-moored on-site using standard mooring spreaders, according to the companies. The individual units will be arranged in arrays comprising as many as several hundred MW of total rated capacity that are to be connected to a central offshore sub-station via a high-voltage umbilical link.
“The selection of the AWS-III system for this exciting and ground-breaking project is a significant endorsement of our technology and team. We firmly believe that the AWS-III will become the established choice for utility scale offshore wave power generation. We look forward to working with Alstom and SSE to deliver Costa Head,“ AWS Ocean Energy CEO Simon Grey, stated.
Developing Scotland’s Ocean Energy Resources
The Costa Head site is part the UK Crown Estate’s Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Strategic Area. SSE Renewables acquired exclusive development rights to Costa Head from the Crown Estate in 2010 as part of a commercial leasing program for marine energy projects.
Alstom purchased a 40% equity stake in Aberdeen-based AWS Ocean Energy in June, 2011. “This project places Alstom at the forefront of the fast-developing ocean energy sector along with our offshore wind and tidal energy businesses,” state Jerome Pecresse, president of Alstom Renewable Power and senior vice president, Alstom Hydro.
“It demonstrates the strength of our offer as a leading supplier of clean energy solutions and of our involvement in all renewable energy sources in Scotland, the potential of which is considerable.”
SSE Renewables is a leading, keystone player in Scotland’s emergence as a worldwide leader in developing ocean, wave, and tidal energy projects and technology. Recognized for its early commitment to developing renewable energy resources, the Scottish energy utility and renewable energy project owner and developer supplies energy to some 10 million customers throughout the UK. It’s in the midst of a five-year, 3-billion-pound (~$4.6-billion) renewable project investment program.
Though the AWS-III will be used at Costa Head, SSE had acquired a stake in Aquamarine Power, which is developing the Oyster, a promising ocean wave energy device and system of its own. That stake has been transferred to the UK Environmental Energies Fund, which is managed by leading UK growth equity and venture capital firm Scottish Equity Partners (SEP).
The fund operates as a partnership between SSE Renewables’ parent firm, a FTSE-100 listed SSE plc, one of the UK’s largest energy companies, and four blue-chip institutional investors, headed by Lexington Partners, the world’s largest manager of secondary private equity funds.
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