COAST Laboratory - Commercial case studies and testimonials

Marine Power Systems – pioneers in marine energy

Marine Power Systems Ltd. (MPS) is developing a flexible ocean energy technology which can be configured to deliver wave power (WaveSub), floating wind power (WindSub) or combined energy generation (DualSub) at grid scale.  

The technology benefits from a single deployment, recovery and operation & maintenance strategy; this unique approach enables MPS to deliver the energy generation solution(s) that fit the resource that our customer wishes to exploit. Maximum energy extraction will be delivered from a given area of ocean whilst ensuring that our customers benefit from the lowest levelised cost of energy.

Based in South Wales, the company was co-founded in 2008 by Swansea University engineering graduates, Dr Gareth Stockman and Dr Graham Foster to develop and bring to market their marine renewable energy technologies.  

Their pioneering technologies have the potential to substantially reduce the costs of energy generation and unlock the huge energy potential of ocean waves and offshore winds. The company’s long-term vision is to take its products to a commercial market and become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of multi-megawatt marine energy devices which can generate clean, affordable, reliable energy for countries around the globe.

MPS engaged with the Marine-i team, who provided help with sourcing an office location to support WaveSub’s 1:4 scale sea-trials at University of Exeter’s FaBTest site, introductions to the Cornish marine energy supply chain for help with deployment and maintenance work, and access to the testing facilities and research expertise at University of Plymouth’s COAST Lab.

 Supporting the development of WaveSub 

Craig Whitlam, Senior Design and Development Engineer at MPS, explains how the company has worked with University of Plymouth:

“We have built a well-established and highly successful relationship with the Business Research fellows and students at University of Plymouth. Since 2013, one or two students each year have carried out their MSc dissertation projects on WaveSub. This has been incredibly useful as they have allowed MPS to carry out detailed analysis of key aspects of our technology, such as power capture and survivability.

“This has also been a valuable experience for the students. It has given them the opportunity to work on a ground-breaking commercial project and develop their expertise in areas such as testing, computation, and validation of numerical models. The strength of the relationship is demonstrated by the fact that three University of Plymouth MSc students have gone on to become full-time employees of Marine Power Systems – myself included!”

Craig adds: “The long-standing relationship with University of Plymouth means there is a solid foundation of mutual trust and this leads to highly productive collaboration and great team work.”

 Tank testing at University of Plymouth’s COAST Lab 

Craig continues: “WaveSub has a unique orbital energy capture mechanism – directly and efficiently harnessing the subsurface orbital energy flow of the waves. Each float can capture over 1.5 megawatts of power, and each WaveSub device has multiple floats, leading to significant multi megawatt power output per machine.

“WaveSub is designed to survive storms by retracting the float securely against the reactor platform deep underwater, well beneath the harsh conditions on the sea surface. In its surface configuration WaveSub is straightforward to transport and maintain and is accessible on-site for servicing.

“By November 2018, we had reached the point where we felt it was important to conduct further scale model testing of the technology in order to prove the concept, and University of Plymouth’s COAST Lab provided the ideal facility for this work.”

COAST Lab provides physical model testing with combined waves, currents and wind, offered at scales appropriate for device testing, array testing, environmental modelling and coastal engineering. The facility has the capability to generate short and long-crested waves in combination with currents at any relative direction, sediment dynamics, tidal effects and wind. Craig says:

“We carried out two weeks of exhaustive testing in the Ocean Basin at the COAST Lab. The Ocean Basin allows waves and currents to be generated at any relative orientation and can be run at different water depths. This allowed us to test three devices: WaveSub, WindSub and DualSub.

“This testing allowed us to study in detail how these devices would perform in typical ocean conditions, examine their performance on key aspects such as stability, survivability and power output, and also validate our own in-house computer simulations.  

Successful trials at FaBTest 

MPS moved forward with sea trials of a 1:4 scale version of WaveSub at the FaBTest site, which is managed by University of Exeter. In September 2019, the company announced that these had been successfully completed, proving WaveSub’s functionality and its ability to generate zero-carbon electricity from ocean waves. Dr Graham Foster, Chief Technology Officer at MPS says:

“The wrap-up of the WaveSub testing at FaBTest is a significant step forwards for MPS and we’re delighted with what we have achieved. We have demonstrated the fundamental USP’s of WaveSub such as its inherent ease of transportation, deployment and maintenance; we have achieved a high level of technical capability with the remote control, monitoring and communication systems; and importantly we have shown we are able to generate grid compliant electricity from ocean waves.

“An R&D project of this scale and complexity was never going to been plain sailing – we’ve had to deal with various issues and setbacks along the way. Support from the highly capable local supply chain and the team at FaBTest was invaluable – with their help we successfully overcame our problems and gathered vital data on the performance and functionality of WaveSub. The knowledge we’ve accrued over the last year will be duly fed into the full-scale WaveSub project and will be essential for reducing risks and ensuring a successful outcome.”

 Further research at University of Plymouth 

In November 2019, the MPS team returned to COAST Lab for a further four weeks of testing. Craig Whitlam says: “Following the FaBTest trials, we continue to fine-tune our technology. With WaveSub we have now designed an improved power take-off system and for WindSub we have updated the design of our floating platform.

“As we moved into the final stages of development for WaveSub, it became apparent that many of its features make it well suited to the needs of the floating offshore wind sector. Its stability in deep water can make it an ideal platform for wind turbines, therefore we are accelerating our research in this area.  A current project being carried out by a University of Plymouth PhD student has produced a scale wind turbine model which can been made available to MPS for integration to our floating platform for testing in the Ocean Basin.  

“We are also very grateful for the research being carried out by Dr Martyn Hann, Lecturer in Coastal Engineering at University of Plymouth. He is involved in a Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy sponsored research project, investigating the use of software-in-the-loop driven actuators for physical testing of floating wind turbine platforms, allowing us to examine the effect of variable loading on the WindSub and DualSub devices.

“This is real, cutting-edge research which will be valuable for our product development but will also have important applications for the global offshore wind industry.”

 

The future 

Craig Whitlam says: “We are delighted with the support that we have received from Marine-i, the University of Exeter FaBTest team, the local supply chain and from the ongoing relationship with University of Plymouth and the team at COAST Lab.

“The success that we have achieved with these trials has enabled MPS to take a significant step towards commercialisation of our new technologies. We have now been awarded significant funding from both the Welsh European Funding Office, £12.8m, to progress the design, manufacture and testing of a full-scale version of the WaveSub. In addition, we have been awarded more than £4.3m of European Regional Development Funds, under the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Local Enterprise Partnership to progress the design, manufacture and testing of a scaled version of the DualSub.  

“We anticipate that the University of Plymouth will continue to be a valuable research partner as we move towards commercialisation. University of Plymouth is an integral part of our team and is helping us accelerate our innovations.”

“There were other valuable outputs from these COAST Lab tests. The University of Plymouth equipment incorporates motion-capture technology which allowed us to look in detail at the behaviour of the devices in different wave and wind combinations. COAST Lab also has HD video systems which captured footage of the devices both above and below the waterline. We have been able to use this video material to present and explain the technology in presentations to investors and at conferences.”

AMOG Consulting

The company planning a breakthrough in wave energy technology    

AMOG Consulting is an award-winning team of consulting engineers, project managers and technicians, based in Australia and with offices in the UK, USA, Malaysia and Colombia.  

Founded in 1991, AMOG originally provided consulting services to the offshore oil and gas industry. Over the last 20 years, the company has diversified to deliver services to new sectors such as offshore renewable energy, the civil maritime industry, and the heavy transport industry. The company delivers industry-leading scientific and engineering expertise to projects of any scale and their goal is to be the leading specialist engineering service provider in their chosen fields.

A technology arm has also grown over the last five years, where technology has been developed, licensed to large manufacturers and successfully sold in the marketplace.

Wave energy expertise 

Wave energy is an area in which the company has developed significant expertise and the team have worked together to invent the concept for a revolutionary new kind of Wave Energy Convertor (WEC).

Director of Research and Development, Hayden Marcollo says: “Our expertise in offshore renewables allowed us to bring a unique understanding to the conceptual development of a new technology. It seemed to us that the major failings of previous projects have been related to reliability, survivability and cost of installation. We have found a way to address these issues by eliminating mechanical components below the waterline and ensuring the system is moored conventionally requiring low cost infrastructure. Crucially, our design, installation and project execution depend heavily on the lessons learned and best practices from the fifty year old offshore oil and gas industry.”

An ideal region for testing 

When looking at options for testing the innovative device, Cornwall stood out as a world beating location for the team.

Director David Rowley explains: “We considered other potential testing locations, including in Australia, but Cornwall stood out as having a number of clear advantages for us. Firstly, the weather conditions in Cornwall mean that there is a more consistent wave pattern. Secondly, the infrastructure in Cornwall and Plymouth for marine testing is highly developed and advanced – the county offers first class testing facilities that are already proven, as well as a superb supply chain in the marine technology sector. And lastly, the availability of grant funding and other support through Marine-i has enabled us to accelerate the project.”

The design of AMOG’s WEC is based on the principles of Dynamic Vibration Absorbers (also known as Tuned Mass Dampers) which have been used in many technologies since the early 1900s, including car engines, bridges, cable structures, and even hand-held electrical shavers. In the case of the WEC, the system is tuned to maximise power from incoming waves, extracting energy from the pendulum damping via electromotive force, rather than damping the response of the hull.

Marine-i have provided grant funding for the AMOG team to carry out comprehensive testing of their wave energy convertor.  

Model testing at University of Plymouth’s COAST Lab 

The University of Plymouth COAST Lab supported the AMOG WEC in performing larger scale model tests in their ocean basin. The COAST Lab Ocean Basin is 35m long by 15.5m wide with a moveable floor that allows different operating depths of up to 3m. This basin can be used to create unidirectional and directional wave fields, regular waves, wave spectra and currents in three dimensions, putting it at the forefront of testing for marine renewable energy arrays. The COAST Lab Ocean Basin is much larger than any equivalent facility available to AMOG in Australia.

In April 2019, two weeks of testing were conducted at COAST Lab using a 1/12 scale model of the device deployed at FabTest. The primary aim was to use this model testing facility to provide a more detailed calibration of the WEC numerical models. In particular short-crested seas can be studied in this facility. University of Plymouth’s COAST Lab was able to replicate at scale the sea conditions that the AMOG device would need to operate in.

The tests at COAST Lab were successful in verifying the numerical models underpinning the development and showed that the WEC behaved in the way that had been predicted.

Following on from the COAST Lab tests, the plan was to deploy a technology demonstrator device at the FaBTest site. The device required towing from the place of fabrication in Pembroke Docks to the deployment site in Falmouth. Therefore, as part of the COAST Lab trials, tests were run to see how the device would behave under towing conditions. These gave reassurance to the towing contractor that the operation could be carried out smoothly.

While the above trials were taking place, an open day was held at University of Plymouth’s COAST Lab to show the facility in action, including ‘live testing’ of the AMOG device in the Coastal Basin. Lead Engineer Jon Gumley of AMOG gave a presentation on the device, helping to promote wider understanding of the challenges facing WEC developers and encouraging other businesses in the marine supply chain in the South West to engage with the project. The AMOG team have also delivered lectures to University of Plymouth students as part of this ongoing collaboration. 

Overseeing the tests at COAST Lab was AMOG’s recently recruited Project Engineer, Peter Mazurenko. Peter had joined the company thanks to the support of the Marine-i Graduate Support Scheme. With the help of Marine-i partner Falmouth Marine School, AMOG successfully recruited Peter from a large pool of well qualified and skilled candidates.    

Peter Mazurenko said: “COAST Lab is a unique facility and a real asset to the South West. Being able to use this world class facility helped us verify our modelling and progress to the next stage. What’s more, the University of Plymouth staff were hands-on and able to give us great advice. The support was invaluable in helping us accelerate our innovation.”

Sea trials at FaBTest 

In summer 2019, the 1:3 scale technology demonstrator device was tested at the University of Exeter FabTest site in Falmouth, a ‘nursery’ test site for wave energy convertors. The site offers the opportunity for the device to be tested in a sheltered location for a summer season deployment, in order to have a scaled environment.  

The AMOG team have commented that a deployment site equivalent to FaBTest located in Australia would take approximately 5 years to organize the necessary permits.

On the 15th August 2019, the AMOG WEC produced first power. After a number of challenges were overcome, including some extreme weather conditions, the pendulum was set swinging in the waves and measured power was produced.

In the words of Peter Mazurenko: "It is testament to AMOG and our team of sub-contractors that the mechanical and electrical design worked as intended first time round. It also demonstrated the value of conducting the exhaustive tests at COAST Lab.”

An important step forward for wave energy 

The launch and generation of first power from this device is the culmination of thousands of hours of wave energy research, hydrodynamic analysis, structural design, hull fabrication, and electrical integration work.  

This successful test has yielded a mass of valuable data that will help AMOG thoroughly assess the commercial viability of their technology. It will enable AMOG to analyse various aspects of the product design and its integration, providing confidence in the design and operation before scaling up to a full size version connected to the grid in the next test phase.

Jon Gumley says: “We believe this is an highly innovative wave energy device that is robust as it has been developed using well-understood engineering principles. We hope this technology will make a real impact in the wave energy sector across the globe. Being able to test this product in Cornwall and at the University of Plymouth, with support from Marine-i, is really helping us drive our project forward.”

The impact of Marine-i 

Marine-i has provided a comprehensive package of support that has helped to underpin this important technological advance. This has comprised a Marine Challenge Fund grant, model testing at University of Plymouth’s COAST Lab, deployment at University of Exeter’s FaBTest site, and a skilled graduate in place thanks to the help of the Marine-i Graduate Support Scheme. Throughout the process, the AMOG team have had ongoing business assistance from the specialists at Cornwall Marine Network. In addition, Marine-i has organised a ‘Meet the Buyer’ day to introduce key players in the local marine supply chain to the AMOG team and their technology, so that they can play their full part in providing new solutions for its successful development.

Professor Lars Johanning of University of Exeter, lead partner for Marine-i says: “We are delighted to support AMOG’s ambitious development of wave energy technology in Cornwall. The successful commercialisation of this technology could have a massive impact on our local economy and, indeed, on the wider UK economy.”

Peter Mazurenko adds: “The whole AMOG team is very grateful for the expert support that we have had from the Marine-i project. We are now pressing ahead with the next stage of development and could potentially have a commercial scale device operating offshore during the summer of 2020, which is a very exciting prospect.” 

MTG

MTG is a special purposes company, set up in 2013, specifically to develop a novel floating tidal energy concept. We have not yet reached market but are aiming for a 10% market share. Our technology could be particularly useful in developing countries such as West Africa, Indonesia and Bangladesh where there are significant tides and in order to enable sustainable development access to power is needed. Therefore we see that there is a development as well as a purely commercial opportunity for our technology.

We first approached Plymouth in 2014 and together we developed a bid and were successful in winning a £177k Innovate UK grant to support further development. Our collaborative work concentrated on numerical modelling, simulations and calculations which enabled us to move on in developing a scale model of our concept.

We applied for a further grant from Innovate based on the success of the numerical modelling and were successful in getting a further grant from Innovate UK intended to enable the consortium to build a full scale prototype of the MTG proposed system. The intention now is to apply for a further grant from Innovate to enable MTG to develop a marine turbine suitable for the MTG system. It is the intention to work with Plymouth to design and test such a turbine. The consortium will then be able to complete the system for testing in ocean conditions and sale.

Whilst there are of course many organisations and individuals needed to see our concept come to reality without the collaborative research we undertook together we would not have been able to contemplate building our scale model. We look forward to future interaction as we continue to develop our concept into reality.

CorPower Ocean

"At Corpower Ocean we are a leading wave energy developer cracking the code of producing energy from the ocean in a reliable and cost-effective way. To achieve this, we have a dedicated team that works in a variety of fields and completes a huge amount of design work, assembly, installation, and commissioning operations . The Ocean Basin at Plymouth University has been utilized by the project to complete mooring validation tests, the scale model wave device and moorings have been subjected to the harshest conditions it would experience at full scale. The results from this scale testing are vital to validating and gaining good correlation to our numerical models for the system, some of the main outputs from the testing also feed into the anchor, mooring and structural design of the system." 

"The capabilities of the facility combined with an exceptional experimentation team has allowed us to obtain excellent data and tank repeatability whilst also maximising runtime during testing. Overall completing testing at the Ocean Basin has allowed us to design a better system to match the design requirements to the components, this will also feed into making the system overall more cost efficient and furthering other novel designs which meets our requirements."

 

"The successful tank testing at the Ocean Basin has allowed CorPower to unlock multi-million euro funding releases from key project funders and investors as we were able to pass and prove key design and project milestones."

Robert Argo, Marine Operations Manager - CorPower Ocean

Griffon Hoverwork

GHL is a hovercraft manufacturer and has built up a skilled workforce in the manufacture and maintenance of hovercraft skirts and flexible tanks. GHL were introduced to wave energy technology through a funding bid led to participation in an EPSC SuperGen Marine Challenge II project with the University of Plymouth. During this project we manufactured flexible inflatable "Squid" models for the COAST wave tank at Plymouth and provided design input for both model and full-scale applications. We have been involved since the early proof of concept model tests which demonstrated that a flexible device such as this operated in the required manner. Eventually this led to a model Squid device that could drive air back and forth through a simulated Wells turbine as predicted. This showed that the concept could form the basis of a device capable of generating electrical energy at full scale.

In parallel we collaborated on the work needed to demonstrate how to scale up the technology to full scale. One of our teams, which usually builds flexible water tanks, was deployed to build Squid models utilising their specialist expertise in fabric welding. A different technology is needed for full-scale fabrication and our specialist hovercraft skirt team were involved in this aspect. This work builds on our core expertise in understanding the fabrication, performance and maintenance of these materials in a marine environment.

In terms of what the relationship has meant to GHL, there has been income via external grants, utilisation and expansion of our workforce's skillset, particularly the 15 specialists in the skirt workshop part of the business. Most importantly, our involvement in these collaborative projects has given us the ability to utilise a specialist set of skills, expand our know-how and investigate potential future markets. Flexible WECs are not yet a market reality but if and when they are, as a result of this collaboration and subsequent work we expect GHL to be at the forefront of the specialist manufacturing businesses necessary to build these flexible structures. If the wave energy market and particularly flexible wave energy converters do take off, we would expect our speculative investment to pay off by way of a significant market share.