Thursday, 26 November 2009

QUB launches World's largest wave energy device
November 24 2009

Queen's University Belfast has launched the world's largest working hydroelectric wave energy in the Orkney Islands in Scotland. Operated by private firm Aquamarine Power and known as the Oyster, it is currently the world's only hydroelectric wave energy device producing power. This will power homes in Orkney. A farm of 20 Oysters would provide enough energy to power 9,000 three bedroom family homes.

Oyster was first conceived out of work funded by an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research grant to Queen's between 2002 and 2004, to develop surging power-wave devices. Professor Trevor Whittaker from QUB's School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering was the principal investigator and was supported by Dr Matt Folley. Aquamarine Power Ltd was formed by a Scottish entrepreneur specifically to develop the technology.

Today there is a joint agreement which results in Queen's undertaking all the hydrodynamic testing for Aquamarine. Professor Whittaker said that the concept of Oyster came about through research in the University's wave-tank facility at Queen's. "The launch of Oyster is a major landmark in terms of carbon-free sustainable energy production. "Devices such as these have the power to revolutionise the world's energy industry and help combat climate change."

Professor Whittaker added that the Oyster is the third prototype demonstration wave power project which the team at Queen's has instigated in the past 20 years. "We are continuing to work with our partners in Aquamarine Power and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to develop the next generation of Oyster, by providing testing opportunities at Queen's large wave tanks facility in Portaferry which is part-funded through the University's Institute for a Sustainable World."

Marine energy such as that produced by Oyster has the potential to meet up to 20% of the UK's energy demands, according to Professor Whittaker. Martin McAdam, Chief Executive Officer of Aquamarine Power, said: "We have proved what we always believed – that wave energy can produce sustainable zero-emission electricity to power our homes. "The UK has one of the best wave resources in the world. Now it also has the best technology," Mr McAdam added.