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EMEC - European Marine Energy Centre

International demand drives EMEC expansion

Scotland is leading the way in wave and tidal power generation as part of the Scottish Government’s target to generate 100% of the country’s annual electricity consumption through renewable sources by 2020 (Scottish Government).

The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney is playing a key role in proving to the world the value of wave and tidal power as a sustainable source of renewable energy.

Founded in 2003, EMEC is the first centre of its kind to offer developers of both wave and tidal energy converters the opportunity to test in the world class marine conditions around Orkney, Scotland.

The Centre was established with around £34 million of funding from the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Carbon Trust, UK Government, Scottish Enterprise, the European Union and Orkney Islands Council. In 2011, EMEC became financially self-sufficient, largely due to the heightened activity on site during the previous year.

EMEC is the only accredited test centre for marine renewable energy in the world, suitable for testing a number of wave and tidal energy devices simultaneously in some of the harshest weather conditions while producing electricity to the national grid through the company’s infrastructure. All monies generated by the sale of electricity are fed back to the developers, increasing the funds for future industry investment.

Completed in 2003, the Billia Croo test site is located on the western edge of the Orkney mainland in an area with some of the highest wave energy potential in Europe - with an average significant wave height of 2 – 3 metres, and the highest wave on record reaching 19 metres. The site consists of five cabled test berths in up to 70 metres of water, located approximately 2km offshore, as well as a near shore berth for shallow water projects.

EMEC’s tidal test site at the Fall of Warness, located to the west of the island Eday, was chosen for its high velocity marine currents which reach almost 4 m/s (8 knots) in spring tides. The facility offers eight test berths at depths ranging from 12m to 50m in an area 2km across and approximately 4km in length.

EMEC’s test sites attract developers from all around the globe with more devices having been tested at EMEC than any other single site in the world. To date, EMEC has hosted 16 wave and tidal energy clients (with 25 marine energy devices) spanning 9 countries. These developers use the facilities to prove what is achievable in some of the harshest marine environments, whilst in close proximity to sheltered waters and harbours.

Clients that have tested at the centre include Aquamarine Power, Pelamis Wave Power, E.ON, ScottishPower Renewables, Seatricity, Wello and AW Energy on the wave site, and Alstom (formerly Tidal Generation Ltd), ANDRITZ HYDRO Hammerfest, Atlantis Resources Corporation, OpenHydro, Scotrenewables Tidal Power, Voith, Flumill, Nautricity and Magallanes on the tidal site.

Accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), EMEC operates to relevant test laboratory standards (ISO17025), enabling the Centre to provide another unique service - independently verified performance reports.

EMEC has also worked hard to ease the path to market for marine renewable developers by developing test sites in less challenging conditions, helping to close the gap between testing in a wave or tidal tank and bringing full-scale prototypes to trial in real sea conditions.

These non-grid connected test sites provide a more flexible sea space for use by smaller scale technologies, supply chain companies, and equipment manufacturers. Such accessible real sea testing enables marine energy developers and suppliers to learn lessons more cheaply by reducing the need for big vessels or large plant.

At these sites multi-point anchoring systems provide developers with a fully functional alternative to either bringing their own gravity base or having to drill and install anchor chains and mooring blocks. Bespoke test support buoys allow developers to dissipate the electricity generated by their devices in an environmentally conscious way, while transferring wave and tidal data back to the control centre. An area of seabed is also available for rehearsal of deployment techniques.

In 2014, EMEC expanded its scope attaining the International Standard ISO/IEC 17020 for verification of the performance of new environmental technologies. Open to energy technologies, water treatment and monitoring technologies, and materials, waste and resources, EMEC-ETV (Environmental Technology Verification) can help innovative technologies reach the market via the provision of a Statement of Verification.

Beyond technology testing and verification, EMEC works on a variety of projects to help facilitate the development of marine renewables spanning environmental and wildlife studies, knowledge sharing projects and infrastructure development. EMEC is at the forefront in the development of international standards for marine energy, and is forging alliances with other countries, exporting its knowledge around the world to stimulate the development of a global marine renewables industry.

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