United Kingdom Centre for Marine Energy Research

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


Marine (or offshore) renewable energy has a large potential to deliver clean, secure and predictable energy. The United Kingdom has some of the largest natural resources (large waves, strong tidal currents and high winds) of any country in the world. The exploitation of these resources is critical to addressing the energy trilemma (of producing secure, cost affordable, low carbon energy). Indeed, it is likely that without marine energy the UK's ambitious 2050 carbon reduction targets cannot be met. However, Marine energy has significant challenges to overcome. Wave, tidal and wind turbines must be installed and operated in remote locations, where the water is deep and the ocean, weather and tides are highly energetic. To provide cost effective electricity, renewable energy devices must be inexpensive to manufacture, simple to install, reliable, easy to service and produce large quantities of energy. Achieving all of this within the hostile marine environment is quite a challenge, however the prize is significant, providing not only clean energy, but significant employment and export opportunities.

The United Kingdom Centre for Marine Renewable Energy (UKCMER) is a virtual centre, funded under RCUK's Energy Programmes SUPERGEN initiative. UKCMER seeks to coordinate research in renewable electricity generation using the power of the waves, tidal currents and floating wind turbines. The UKCMER core comprises of The University of Edinburgh (who coordinate the programme), Cranfield University, Exeter University, Strathclyde University and Swansea University. In addition to conducting a core research programme UKCMER acts as a hub to coordinate the activities of four additional Grand Challenge projects (EP/N021452/1, EP/N021487/1, EP/N020782/1 and EP/N02057X/1) looking at specific challenges for the marine energy sector.

Research in the fourth phase of UKCMER will focus on: methods to enhance the performance of tidal turbines that recognise that arrays of machines are affected by both the interactions of the water flowing passed the devices and the electrical infrastructure which collects the energy generated and sends it to the grid. The development of design tools to assist in the optimal design of wave energy converters, tidal turbines and floating wind turbines that account for the random nature of both the waves and turbulence in the marine environment. Methods to explore the response of wave energy converters, tidal turbines and floating wind turbines to extreme loading events, recognising that such events arise from a combination of steep (rather than large waves) and the state of the device when the waves reach it. Examining how the wakes of tidal turbines deployed in farms interact with each other so that the power production from the farm can be optimised. And finally, how new designs and materials can improve the structural integrity of offshore renewable energy converters. The research programme has been designed to be complementary to the existing grand challenge projects and will make use of early results from these projects.

UKCMER leads the UK's international outreach activities and has developed strong links to programmes in Chile, Japan, Korea, Mexico and the USA which will be further strengthened under this grant. UKCMER staff continue to contribute to standardisation activities of the IEC helping to develop the 62600 series of international standards and contributing to the work of the International Towing Tank Conference (ITTC) and the International Ships and Offshore Structures Congress (ISSC).

Planned Impact

National Level

The United Kingdom has been at the forefront of marine energy research with its vast natural resource, positive political agenda and a focused and collaborative research effort. The work carried out on control and performance, fatigue and reliability, extreme loading and array interaction is specifically applicable to MeyGen's Phase 1a Pentland Firth tidal array project, which will be the world's first commercial tidal array.

Furthermore, Scotland has taken a step-change approach to innovation within wave energy, with an applied approach of strategically connecting academia and industry. UKCMERs work on control and performance, reliability, extreme loads and materials and structures offer valuable linkages for current projects running within the Wave Energy Scotland (WES) portfolio, thus increasing the breakthroughs in technology.

By collaborating with both academic and industry partners, UKCMER's research will have a positive impact on the UK's supply chain, creating new market opportunities resulting in a three-fold impact of increased carbon savings, security of energy supply and increased economic benefit and job creation.

European Level

The work carried out within the UKCMER consortium can help meet the strategic priorities set out by Ocean Energy Forum. The collaboration opportunities within UKCMER partners and industry partners can ensure that academic research aligns wholly with the needs of the industry, and the knowledge-exchange between academia and industry can help overcome the barriers identified in the Ocean Energy Strategic Roadmap.

Further, a well developed and commercialised ocean energy sector promises significant development of a pan-European supply chain. The research from UKCMER is essential to ensure that the supply chain progresses to a commercialisation stage of development which will impact on lowering the levelised cost of energy (LCOE).
In addition to aligning with the needs of the industry towards further progression of the sector, the ongoing work of the UKCMER consortium has the ability to provide the European Commission with better insight into the understanding of marine energy's research needs and marine energy's overall role in the energy portfolio, which will help to influence future Horizon 2020 work programmes, specifically within the areas Low Carbon Energy and Blue Growth, which will further lead to an improved SET-Plan.

International Level

The work carried out within the UKCMER consortium can help to influence the future work of the International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC) with the development of standards. Currently, members of UKCMER are heavily involved as experts and conveners for the IEC illustrating the influence on sector development. Standards established at the IEC have the opportunity to be validated through applied research carried out within the UKCMER programme, thus increasing the progression of commercialisation and competitiveness of the marine energy sector worldwide.

UKCMER also impacts the work of the International Energy Agency - Ocean Energy Systems (IEA-OES) through collaborative work on determining an international guideline for LCOE as well as ongoing work with regard to technology and knowledge transfer, which continues to impact development of the sector worldwide.

Further impact has already been seen on an international level with the commissioning of the Chilean Marine Energy Research and Innovation Centre (MERIC) and the Mexican Innovation Centre in Ocean Energy (CEMIE Oceano) for which members of UKCMER have played, and continue to play, vital roles in implementation, thus increasing the global awareness and research capabilities for marine energy. This will continue to ensure that duplication and replication of work is avoided on an international level, thus leading to acceleration of the global sector.


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Description The research leading to and emanating from this funding award has led to an advancement in knowledge of the design and development and operation of subsystems, devices and arrays in the wave and tidal energy sector. The numerical modelling and physical testing of arrays of scaled tidal devices have shown that these arrays are affected by both the flow conditions and the control approach used, along with the electrical infrastructure that sends the generated power to the grid. The work has also examined how the wakes of tidal turbines deployed in farms interact with each other and has provided insight into how the turbines in arrays can be controlled to maximise the power production from the array. Design tools to assist with the optimal design of wave energy converters and both bed mounted and floating tidal energy converters that account for the stochastic nature of both the waves and turbulence in the marine environment were developed over the course of the project. A multi-objective design framework to design subsystems of marine energy converters (e.g. moorings), taking into account reliability considerations right at the start of the design process, were also developed. The underpinning research during this phase and earlier phases of the project has led to the release of open-source software design tools both aiding device development and array development. The outputs, findings, impact, collaborations and industry and policy interaction were reported at the 2018 Annual Assembly, available to download from the website. The associated publications are in press and are reported in this submission to Researchfish.
Exploitation Route The work that is ongoing is influencing technology, policy, standards, planning and practice.
Sectors Energy,Environment

URL https://www.supergen-marine.org.uk/
Description The work of this collaboration has influenced technology, policy, standards and practice in the marine energy sector.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services