ORE Catapult, EMEC and AFRC join forces to improve marine component reliability

Published 24 February 2015

Three of the UK’s leading technology innovation, research and testing centres are working together on a joint project to test and analyse components in wave and tidal devices, to better understand issues around component reliability, improve performance and ultimately reduce the cost of marine energy.

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult is working with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (ARFC), part of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, to build a database identifying the common failure mechanisms of components.

EMEC will undertake a ‘forensic analysis’ of a variety of components that have failed to some degree across a range of wave and tidal energy devices, with AFRC providing support around component testing.

The resulting report will be made available to support the sector in engineering design choices around components and materials.

The UK’s wave and tidal industry is strategically important to the UK economy, and could be worth around £76bn cumulatively by 2050. However, in the highly energetic marine environment, component failure contributes to high industry costs, which must be reduced if the industry is to move towards commercialisation and compete effectively with other sources of energy supply.

This project is the first under a new Collaboration Agreement between ORE Catapult and EMEC. ORE Catapult’s Elaine Buck was seconded to EMEC in August 2014 to identify common areas in which the two organisations could pool their resources and work together on a series of practical projects designed to support the wave and tidal industry in the UK and abroad.

ORE Catapult’s Strategy & Commercialisation Director, Dr Stephen Wyatt, said:

“Through our collaboration with EMEC, we are able to provide a much more joined up approach to supporting the UK’s wave and tidal sector, pooling our common expertise and test and demonstration assets to tackle some of the key technology innovation challenges facing the sector today.

“This particular project also gives us the opportunity to work cross-Catapult with our colleagues at AFRC, part of the HVM Catapult, and other experts in the field who will help us get to the root cause of common industry failures.”

Dr Jennifer Norris, EMEC’s Research Director, added:

“At the moment, some of the components being used in marine energy converters are being tested for the first time – at least for the purpose of generating electricity from marine energy – in challenging high energy real sea conditions. Many of the marine energy developers have experienced issues with component failures on their devices. Using off-the-shelf components can, of course, be the most efficient option when those components can cope with the challenges associated with marine energy capture, but sometimes these components – which have often been designed for use in different environments – cannot cope.

“The developers testing with us at EMEC collectively have the most experience in the world of the challenges, successes and failures of marine energy deployment and operation. By gathering failed components from a range of devices and looking at them in more detail at a variety of Technology Readiness Level (TRL) stages, this project will assist technology developers in the selection of appropriate components thereby improving efficiency and ultimately lowering the cost of energy.

“EMEC’s unique position will ensure that essential lessons learned from the early-stage deployments are shared with the rest of the sector, whilst protecting the intellectual property of the developers themselves, enabling the industry to progress more efficiently to commercialisation.”

In the coming weeks EMEC and AFRC will host a workshop, focusing on component testing. The workshop will target renewables developers, manufacturers and the supply chain for component production, and will cover a number of aspects of component testing including material selection and metallurgy, manufacturing methods, and opportunities for conducting component evaluation.

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