UK universities to share £7.5 million to advance wave energy

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has awarded funding to eight projects looking to develop and test new cutting-edge wave energy technologies.

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)

The projects will build on the UK’s role in wave energy to overcome challenges to devices that capture the energy generated by waves and convert it into a renewable source of electricity.

The wider deployment of wave energy converters (WECs) is hampered by challenges such as their ability to survive in extreme weather conditions and their efficiency.

The eight projects selected for EPSRC support will adopt innovative new approaches to overcoming these challenges, including taking inspiration from the fins of marine animals to design flexible WECs that can operate under extreme conditions.

Other projects will test the performance of WECs through ocean-based trials and develop the models needed to assess how they cope with conditions such as storm waves.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK’s Energy Minister, said: “Our coastline and the power of the seas around us offers huge potential for clean renewable energy that can help us meet commitments to end our contribution to climate change by 2050.

“There are certainly unique challenges in harnessing the power of the marine environment and it is exciting to see how these projects can help us make the most of our natural resources in a cleaner greener future”.

Lynn Gladden, EPSRC Executive Chair, added: “As a source of renewable power, marine wave energy would complement existing wind and solar technologies and help to provide a balanced supply.

“By overcoming challenges to effective marine wave energy technologies, the projects will help to unlock a valuable source of renewable energy and help the UK to achieve its net-zero goal”.

Some of the supported projects include University of Strathclyde-led Bionic Adaptive Stretchable Materials for Wave Energy Converters (BASM-WEC) scheme, which received £975,000. The project will explore whether flexible materials inspired by the fins and other body parts of aquatic animals could be used in WECs.

Wave energy moorings will be researched in an initiative led by the University of Manchester, which secured £997,000 to model the impact of waves on various mooring options and aid the design of resilient future WECs under the Mooring analysis and design for offshore WEC survivability and fatigue (MoorWEC) project.

Another project, dubbed MU-EDRIVE and supported with £776,000, will develop and test advanced electrical generators for use in WECs, including protection against corrosion and integration into real devices. Newcastle University is leading the project that will see one generator installed for 12 months on an existing university’s research buoy moored in the North Sea.