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Approximately £ 7.5 million (US $ 10.33 million) of public funding will be used to support the development of eight wave energy projects led by UK universities, including one inspired by marine life to enhance the efficiency and resilience of the Sector in the coming years.
The money will come from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), an organization sponsored by the Government’s Department of Economy, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Funded research focuses on wave energy converters (WECs). According to Ocean Energy Europe (OEE), these devices can “sense the physical movement of waves and waves and convert it into energy – usually electricity”.
The projects to be supported are diverse. For example, one has been inspired by nature and will receive a grant of £ 975,000.
Led by Qing Xiao of Strathclyde University, the potential of using “flexible materials inspired by the fins and other body parts of aquatic animals” in wave energy converters will be explored.
In a statement posted on the university’s website on Wednesday, Xiao stated that using a flexible material in the structures of WECs had a number of benefits.
She added, “The adaptive shaping feature can allow the device to deform during extreme wave events, which will help reduce peak wave load and extend the fatigue life of the device, thus increasing the survivability of the device compared to rigid body WECs.”
Another project to be funded will analyze WECs that use “malleable materials such as flexible fabrics”. Led by academics from the University of Plymouth, the University of Southampton and the University of Oxford, the company was awarded a grant of £ 984,000.
While the future of WECs is exciting, there are undoubtedly hurdles that must be overcome before they can have any greater impact. According to UKRI, their wider deployment “is hampered by challenges such as their ability to survive in extreme weather conditions and their effectiveness”.
The current wave energy footprint is also small. Current figures from OEE show that only 200 kilowatts of power were installed in Europe last year.
According to the WindEurope industry association, 14.7 gigawatts of wind energy capacity were installed in Europe in 2020.
While the International Energy Agency cites marine technologies as “great potential,” it adds that additional policy support is needed for research, design and development to “enable the cost reductions that come with bringing larger commercial plants up and running”.
However, with the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, a change could emerge that will bring the capacity of ocean energy technologies to 100 megawatts by 2025 and to at least 1 gigawatt by 2030.
Back in the UK, which left the EU on January 31, 2020, Lynn Gladden, Chair of the EPSRC, was optimistic about the future.
“As a renewable energy source, ocean wave energy would complement existing wind and solar technologies and contribute to a balanced supply,” she said.
“By addressing the challenges of effective ocean wave energy technologies, the projects will help unlock a valuable source of renewable energy,” added Gladden.