Swansea-Based Collaboration Leads to Wave Energy Innovation
Marine Power Systems (MPS), based in Swansea, is developing a Wave Energy Converter to address the challenges of extracting wave energy at viable cost. Computational research of the float structure is necessary to allow MPS to assess the suitability of the components and significantly de-risk the build and test stages.
ASTUTE 2020 is working with MPS on generating suitable computational models using information supplied by MPS along with performing finite element analysis on the structure.
The WaveSub consists of a power capturing float which is tied by multiple flexible lines to a large barge like reactor.
The lines are connected to a hydraulic power take-off system which is used to capture energy from the relative movement between the float and the reactor, which is then converted to electricity. There are indications that the proposed device has the potential to compete favourably with other available renewable technologies.
Challenges - Wave Energy
The proposed energy harvesting device relies on sea waves that do not fade away when the wind stops blowing, offering a level of consistency and an average power density (of about 2-3 kW/m2) superior to that of wind (0.5 kW/m2) and solar energy (0.1-0.3 kW/m2).
MPS have conducted scaled sea trials and tank testing, and sought support from ASTUTE 2020 in performing computational modelling of the device when immersed in sea water.
The float is manufactured locally by a private company (Camplas Technology Ltd.). It is formed of a continuously wound glass reinforced composite construction with stainless steel bolting plates woven into the float walls. The float is attached to a barge (including the energy harvesting devices) via cables, with the fastening line tension being a direct result of net float buoyancy on the submerged float.
Solution - Numerical Analysis
Finite element analysis has highlighted the fact that the WaveSub is capable of handling the external forces experienced under working conditions. The results of this collaboration will allow confidence that the design is fit for the intended world first application and highlight improvements that could be made to the full scale device.
As a result of the collaboration with ASTUTE 2020 at Swansea University on the WaveSub, MPS were declared the winners of the Research and Development award category at the Insider’s Business and Education Partnership awards in 2016 at Cardiff’s Marriott Hotel. The local collaboration between academia and industry along with the potential global impact of the Wave Energy Converter proved favourable with the judges.
The WaveSub development is an excellent example for the complementarity of different funding streams: support through ASTUTE 2020 (ERDF Research and Innovation) together with £2.5M of ERDF (Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency) and £200k of energy catalyst funding from Innovate UK for the modelling, design, build, test and validation has enabled MPS to progress their device from concept to prototype.
MPS have now completed a 1:4 scale WaveSub and it will be tested under laboratory conditions and then later under sea conditions. It is an important step in the journey towards commercialisation of the Wave Energy Converter.
The WaveSub technology being developed by MPS has huge potential to contribute to energy security targets (wave power generating 10% of the world's electricity by 2050) and could reduce reliance on unpredictable and non-renewable energy sources.
With the continuing developments at MPS and within the wave energy sector, MPS have expanded their workforce by appointing an additional engineer, assisting with further developments of the WaveSub.
As a result of this collaboration and further investment from Welsh Government, MPS have now reached a significant milestone and will unveil the 1:4 Scale WaveSub prototype this October.
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