Photo: Judith Petts and Andrew Jamieson (Courtesy of the University of Plymouth)

UK partners to create new facility for offshore renewable energy innovations

The University of Plymouth and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult have partnered up to establish a new research facility to accelerate the development and deployment of new offshore renewables products and services.

Judith Petts and Andrew Jamieson (Courtesy of the University of Plymouth)
Judith Petts and Andrew Jamieson (Courtesy of the University of Plymouth)

Two of the UK’s leading organizations spearheading the offshore renewable energy revolution are partnering to increase industry access to facilities and expertise by establishing a new Collaborative Offshore Renewable Energy Subsea Systems (COSS) research accelerator.

Hosted within the university’s Marine Building, the COSS is expected to enhance the UK’s position as a global leader in offshore renewables by tackling some of the key engineering challenges to accelerating the roll-out of new technologies.

The new facility will be focused around the hydrodynamics of floating offshore structures, offshore engineering and control systems. It will comprise a suite of advanced engineering facilities for use by academic researchers, industry and businesses working in collaboration with the university and ORE Catapult staff.

This will include a technology development laboratory, test equipment and a virtual reality suite that can be used to study the hydrodynamic and environmental effects across anchors, foundations, moorings and platforms to optimize designs and reduce future project risk and costs.

It will be used to test how innovative wave, tidal and floating offshore wind platforms respond to ocean conditions, and build on work to study and develop autonomous marine systems that can carry out the inspection, maintenance and repair of offshore systems.

Illustration/COAST Laboratory at the University of Plymouth (Courtesy of the University of Plymouth)
Illustration/COAST Laboratory at the University of Plymouth (Courtesy of the University of Plymouth)

A complimentary COSS PhD sponsorship scheme will offer industry the opportunity to develop deep technical understanding of offshore engineering challenges and resolve these through collaborative research.

The ultimate aim is to enhance the resilience of structures and reduce the cost of operations, increasing the competitiveness of offshore renewables compared with other energy sources.

These laboratory facilities will be augmented by access to test rigs located across the South West, the real seas trials site Smart Sound Plymouth, and include access to national test facilities operated by ORE Catapult across the UK.

Judith Petts, vice-chancellor of the University of Plymouth, said: “Through recent announcements, the government has made it clear that offshore renewables should be one of the main providers of UK energy in the coming decades. For that to become a reality, there are a number of engineering challenges that need to be overcome to make the technology fully effective in terms of performance and cost.”

ORE Catapult’s chief executive officer, Andrew Jamieson, added: “COSS enables ORE Catapult to further strengthen its collaborative partnership with the University of Plymouth and, working together with industry, we’ll be able to accelerate technology research and innovation. Ultimately, this will create UK economic benefit, high-value, sustainable jobs and greater energy security from a stronger and more sustainable domestic energy supply, whilst also helping to achieve net zero.”

COSS at the forefront of UK’s offshore renewables revolution

The partners will work to accelerate the development and deployment of new offshore renewables products and services (Courtesy of the University of Plymouth)
The partners will work to accelerate the development and deployment of new offshore renewables products and services (Courtesy of the University of Plymouth)

The COSS further cements the university’s position as one of the leaders in offshore renewable energy research and innovation in the UK. It also expands on a number of existing collaborations involving the university and the ORE Catapult.

These include the TIGER (Tidal Stream Industry Energiser) project, which will see turbines submerged offshore to harness the energy of tidal currents, and the Cornwall FLOW Accelerator initiative, which is supporting Cornwall’s ambitions to take a leading role in the global floating offshore wind sector.

It will also complement existing facilities at the university, including the UK Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Test center and a state-of-the-art simulator that will be used to simulate, test and optimize marine operations throughout the lifecycle of FLOW installations.

Deborah Greaves, professor of ocean engineering at the University of Plymouth and director of the national Supergen ORE Hub, said: “Our work on offshore renewable energy spans everything from influencing government policy to inspiring future generations of innovative engineers. We have established the potential for wave, tidal and floating offshore technologies to make a real contribution to the UK’s net-zero agenda.

“For several years, we have also worked with industry to pioneer new technologies and to provide world-class facilities where they can be tested. As the need for clean energy becomes ever more pressing, the University is perfectly placed to use its research and industry links to transform that innovation into implementation.”


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