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Blog: Turbulence in 2015 – EMEC end of year review

An old engineer I worked with had a sign above his desk that read:

“When you are up to your backside in alligators it is sometimes hard to remind yourself you came here to drain the swamp”

2015 seems to have been a year with a lot of alligators.

However we have always known that getting marine renewables to work was going to be something of a roller-coaster. We have known there would be ups and downs, twists and turns, but nonetheless this year appears to have been a particularly turbulent one for the industry, and for EMEC.

Clearly the big negative news was the demise of leading wave energy company Aquamarine Power, and also the loss of seven staff here at EMEC to deal with the change in the market. We have also seen the end of other developers’ testing plans as they have left the industry.

But in the same year we have signed up new developers to come and test. A lot of new ideas have emerged and frankly we have never been busier speaking with new companies looking to harness the power of the sea.

We have also seen a more mature approach begin to develop in supply chain/component supply companies who see this as a potentially lucrative sector now that we are at last globally making commitments to deal with our carbon addiction. In an economy where renewables pay such an important role we know how important that is to setting policy. We are pleased we can still rely upon support throughout Scottish Government to help bring this innovative industry to fruition.

On a local level Orcadian companies are in demand around the world as the sparks we have struck here begin to glow in other countries too. With the right support we are sure these opportunities can be exploited.

And we should not forget that the companies installing the next generation of tidal turbines in the Pentland Firth in the Meygen project all cut their teeth in Orkney and that the local supply chain is finding its well-honed skills in demand in this challenging environment.

EMEC was set up to help bring a new industry and wealth to the Highlands. We really do see that some of the work we’ve started has begun to take root.

The challenge in 2016 is to continue to nurture and support these innovators as they find their way to success, and we look forward to working with you to tackle these challenges next year.

For now though, I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Neil Kermode
EMEC Managing Director


Highlights of 2015


We’re delighted to have signed two new developers to come and test at EMEC:

  • Sustainable Marine Energy signed a long-term testing contract with EMEC earlier in the year, and is currently gearing up to deploy five PLAT-O systems in an array over the next two years. The first device will be deployed early in 2016; and
  • Laminaria – a Flemish wave energy developer – have signed up to wave berth at Billia Croo where they plan to deploy their wave energy converter in 2017.

We also announced that Nautricity will be returning to test at EMEC, this time at the grid-connected tidal test site at Fall of Warness. This follows successful sea trials at our non-grid connected test site in 2014.

Scotrenewables Tidal Power Ltd are nearing the completion of the build of their second generation tidal turbine – the SR2000 – which will be launched next year. Having secured a recent £5.7m investment, the device – dubbed as the world’s largest tidal turbine – will begin tests at EMEC next year.

We’re continue to work closely with many other wave and tidal developers, and will have some exciting news to announce on this front early next year.

One important new venture for Scotland this year was the creation of Wave Energy Scotland – another visionary step by government to reboot the wave sector. We are very much looking forward to working on two projects awarded under the first WES Power Take Off call.

Activities on site:

Whilst we are well known for providing test and demonstration facilities to technology developers, we are always looking for opportunities to use our infrastructure to the full to ensure maximum benefit to the marine renewables industry, and this year we had a number of interesting projects take place on our test site.

Integrated data collection

One of our highlights was the deployment of our Integrated Monitoring Pod at the Fall of Warness tidal test site back in June, a huge achievement which followed months of planning and development. The cabled pod integrates a variety of sensors and enables real-time 24/7 data feeds to EMEC, and the developers testing on site.

The pod has now been retrieved for inspection with further enhancements planned prior to being redeployed next year.

Lessons learnt from this project so far have been described in the following blog: Integrated data collection in hostile environments


Cable trials

On our tidal test site at Shapinsay Sound, our ‘Old Academy Business Centre’ neighbour – Aquatera – carried out tests of an innovative array cabling solution. Several support companies from Orkney’s marine energy supply chain also played a key role in the project, which saw a unique and novel configuration of local vessels used to install the 50m long structure.


Marine radar installation

There was a lot of excitement around the office in October, when a helicopter was drafted in by Orkney Islands Council to transfer a 16-foot long radar piece of a new VTS (vessel traffic system) from our wave test site at Billia Croo to our marine observations point at the Black Craig. Having been installed, the radar is part of Orkney Islands Council’s new marine traffic system which will improve the safety of marine operations across the West Coast of Orkney.

Watching on as the helicopter arrives at the Black Craig (Credit EMEC)

Watching on as the helicopter arrives at the Black Craig (Credit EMEC)


Other projects:
  • Hydrogen from tidal energy: By far one of the most publicised stories from the year was our announcement that we had procured an electrolyser to convert power generated at the Fall of Warness tidal test site into hydrogen fuel. Due to be installed in 2016, our electrolyser is already part of another project – Surf ‘n’ Turf – which is looking to generate hydrogen from the local Eday community wind turbine when not in use by EMEC. A number of events were held during September to promote these projects, and other hydrogen projects across Orkney with our Managing Director Neil speaking at the Orkney International Science Festival, the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA) conference, and a public drop-in session specifically set up to inform the local community on the Surf ‘n’ Turf project.
  • Environmental Technology Verification (ETV): Announced by Fergus Ewing at All-Energy in May, we launched a competition offering a free Environmental Technology Verification (ETV). The winner of the competition was announced last month as Dryden Aqua who have developed an innovative water treatment product.
  • Marine Mission Planner: We’re working closely with JBA Consulting and the Met Office to develop an advanced forecasting and decision support tool designed to help guide vessel operations days, weeks and months ahead. This software will incorporate the vast amount of operations and maintenance data and resource models from EMEC’s test sites to create a bespoke system to manage marine operations in Orkney waters.
  • Sub-sea Cable Lifecycle Study: Alongside the Crown Estate, we have published a report on the performance of subsea cabling in high energy environments, documenting the years of data and experience we have attained at our test sites.
  • Component analysis project: We’ve also been working with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult on a joint project looking at testing and analysing components from wave and tidal energy devices that have tested in real-sea conditions. We held a workshop in June, bringing together representatives of some of the leading companies in wave and tidal energy to share their knowledge and experiences regarding component issues and failures.
  • Tidal turbulence: We’re working as part of a trans-Atlantic partnership looking at developing a new sensor system to measure the impact of turbulence on tidal devices.


Global test centre collaboration

We continue to work with other countries to help develop the market for marine renewables across the globe.

We’re currently organising the next International WaTERS (Wave and Tidal Energy Research Sites) networking workshop to take place during ICOE 2016.

We were delighted to be recognised for our work in this area, being shortlisted for the Scottish Renewables Green Energy ‘Export’ Award. Congratulations to SgurrEnergy who won on the night, and to Green Marine and Leask Marine who jointly won the Best Supplier Award for their fantastic contribution to the Orkney marine renewables supply chain.

SR Green Energy Awards Finalist badge

Closer to home, we continue to work closely with FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility, having teamed up to support developers applying to Wave Energy Scotland’s latest funding call on novel wave energy converter concepts, as well as kicking off an ambitious programme to use real-life ocean data from EMEC to replicate Orkney’s seas in the FloWave tank.


EMEC in the media:

Media interest throughout the year has been strong, with many journalists coming from afar – from across Europe, Asia, and the Americas – to showcase the fascinating work taking place on Orkney.

Here are some of the programmes that we featured in throughout the year:


Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year








Aquamarine Power


Atlantis Resources Corporation



Naval Group

Naval Group


Open Hydro


Orbital Marine




ScottishPower Renewables



Sustainable Marine Energy

Sustainable Marine Energy


Voith Hydro


Wello Oy

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