In 2005, E.ON – the world’s largest investor-owned power and gas company and one of the UK’s leading renewable generators – set up a dedicated development team to investigate the various wave and tidal technologies and build up a portfolio of projects. Marking the first significant investment in wave power, the company bought a second generation Pelamis Wave Power Ltd P2 machine in 2009: the world’s first wave power machine to be purchased by a utility company.
The P2 comprises five connected sections which flex and bend in the waves. This movement is harnessed by hydraulic rams at the joints which in turn drive electrical generators located inside the device. The device is 180m long, four metres in diameter and weighs approximately 1,350 tonnes.
Arriving in Orkney in July 2010, the 750kW P2 Machine was successfully installed at the Billia Croo wave test site for the first time in October 2010. The three-year testing or ‘work-up’ programme is structured through a series of weather states, each with progressively higher wave heights. The P2 will be tested over a defined period of time in each state before graduating to the next. This approach allows progressive management of risk for the technology and the ability to find and handle any unexpected technical issues as they arise. Inspection and maintenance work is carried out at Lyness, where the machine is located when not at the wave test site, ready for redeployment in suitable weather windows.
In the first collaborative agreement of its kind, E.ON will operate their device alongside a similar P2 machine owned by ScottishPower Renewables. The two utilities have a working agreement to maximise the learning from operating and maintaining the machines as a wave farm.
The learning and experience gained from the project will be used by E.ON in the development of a 50MW wave farm located to the north of EMEC – a site secured in the first commercial leasing round of the UK seabed by the Crown Estate in 2010. The project could see up to 66 Pelamis machines connected to the UK grid.