Results of Orkney wave energy supply chain project published

4CEngineering testing their NWEC at Strathclyde University
4CEngineering testing their NWEC at Strathclyde University
Checkmate testing the Anaconda NWEC (Novel Wave Energy Converter) at Strathclyde University
Checkmate testing the Anaconda NWEC (Novel Wave Energy Converter) at Strathclyde University
Testing Mocean’s novel wave energy converter
Testing Mocean’s novel wave energy converter

During May, Wave Energy Scotland and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) published a series of guidance documents presenting the findings of the Orkney supply chain wave energy device testing project. So what are the main themes of each report? And what are the main conclusions?

The Orkney supply chain project set out to capture and share the collective experience gained by local supply chain companies involved with deployments at the EMEC wave test site in Orkney.  In doing so, nine companies - Aquatera, Bryan J Rendall Electrical, EMEC, Green Marine, Leask Marine, Orcades Marine, Scotmarine, Sula Diving and the Xodus Group - participated in a series of workshops to gather their collective knowledge and generate the guidance documents as a reference point for developers.  A total of three full day workshops were held in Orkney with participants from the local supply chain - with a series of key themes and topics identified during the sessions explored in detail.

As Ashleigh Finlayson, Marketing and Communications Manager at Wave Energy Scotland, explains, the hope is that the guidance documents produced as a result of this exercise will 'help those developers that have yet to install large scale devices in a representative site learn from those who have already been involved in such operations.'

"Consideration of consenting, device installation and handling, including operations and maintenance early on in their projects, will [also] help ensure efficient operation in the future," she says.

"The project intended to explore where certain procedures or design features have proven to be highly successful, while also highlighting the issues that can impact considerably on project success or timelines," she adds.

In all, a total of four guidance documents have been produced, each covering a different subject, including Compliance, Handling, Installation and Operations and Maintenance.  Amongst other things, they provide an insight into what technology developers should consider at early stages of development, notably in areas such as offshore operations, health, safety and environment (HSE), logistics, installation planning, and regulatory compliance.  Ultimately, the expectation is that they will assist WEC developers in making better design decisions across a range of maturity levels and technology types.

According to Finlayson, the compliance guidance document covers issues relating to regulatory and marine licensing and health and safety, as well as electrical safety requirements and industry best practices.  It also provides details of the specific compliance requirements for EMEC test sites.

"Many aspects of the licensing process, required to maintain compliance, involve lengthy, time consuming activities and so early recognition of the requirements that need to be addressed is necessary for a successful project output," says Finlayson.

Meanwhile, the Handling document considers physical interactions relating to lifting, transporting or working on or around a marine energy device, subsystem or component - along with mobilisation, demobilisation, onshore delivery and offshore delivery activities.  A key recommendation at this stage is that developers prepare handling and lifting plans at an early stage in the overall planning of operations, along with a third party peer review of the mobilisation and demobilisation of the WEC.

The third guidance document, focused on Installation activities, considers the impact that the planning of suitable vessels, the people involved and the overall design, have on the installation of the WEC, as well as of the moorings and/or foundations.

"In order to mitigate the risks and high costs arising from the challenges associated with, for example, the need for late design changes, cable installation and decommissioning, a core recommendation is for early engagement with marine contractors and on-going peer review," says Finlayson.

A fourth document considers the management of both onshore and offshore Operations and Maintenance (O&M) activities, as well as marine operations that are part of the planned and unplanned test schedule after the initial installation of a device and its moorings and/or foundation are complete. 

"At an early stage, appropriate planning for vessels, divers, and other support personnel will be required.  Prior to entry into real sea testing, a strong proactive management culture is [also] necessary to ensure all personnel will be aware of and accept ownership of H&S practices," adds Finlayson.

As far as Scotland is concerned, Finlayson argues that uncertainty relating to the locations and standards of grid connections, as well as to the long-term availability (or otherwise) of Feed in Tariffs, will remain a 'significant concern' to the wave energy industry over the next few years.  In the broader European context, she also predicts that existing funding streams will be 'challenged by Brexit' - perhaps meaning  that European coherence and collaboration in the field 'may be compromised.'  Another area of uncertainty is the 'developing interface with the Crown Estate as it moves into Scottish control through Marine Scotland' - particularly in view of the fact that questions relating to how their future policies and charging scales sit within UK regulations 'will now be re-negotiated and enacted.'

"Technically, the challenges remain the same.  Power performance, system reliability and survivability must be demonstrated ahead of ultimately demonstrating WEC performance.  Through the WES programme, participants are encouraged to develop in a structured way to ensure that open water testing will come only when developers have demonstrated overall readiness to successfully meet this objective," says Finlayson.

In acting upon the findings of these reports, Finlayson also urges wave energy developers to 'plan fully' and avail themselves of all the relevant information before embarking on the detailed design process.

"[T]here is a wealth of valuable information and learning available out there.  Ensure you have examined all of the regulations, licence requirements, and the associated costs with the timescales involved," she says.

"Early consideration, identification and action on the requirements for compliance and maintenance is essential.  Make use of the checklists included within each guidance document, and consult those with experience to clarify any issues," she adds.

By Andrew Williams

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