Interview with EMEC External Liaison Officer Max Carcas
Max represents EMEC in its external relations, supporting its customers and stakeholders and helping to develop its strategy for the future. Originally a graduate in Electrical & Electronic Engineering from the University of Edinburgh, he believes marine renewables have a vital part to play in meeting our energy security, environmental and economic needs and is keen to support the sector in achieving that goal.read more
The following is a profile of the EMEC testing facilities in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, including an interview with EMEC External Liaison officer Max Carcas.
The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), which is spread across the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland, is the first and only centre of its kind in the world to provide developers of wave and tidal energy technologies with purpose-built, accredited open-sea testing facilities. As such, the EMEC is a key facility for the development of cutting-edge technology in an energy sector that, although it currently accounts for a small share of European energy consumption, is nevertheless an important element in the energy balance, and is set to make an ever-increasing contribution to the meeting of the 20-20-20 targets and strengthening the security of energy supply in Europe.
Established in 2003, EMEC was set up by a grouping of public sector organisations following a 2001 recommendation by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. To date, around £30 million of public funding has been invested in the Centre by the European Union, the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, The Carbon Trust, the UK Government, Scottish Enterprise, and Orkney Islands Council.
The company provides the world’s only multi-berth, purpose-built, open-sea test facilities for wave and tidal energy converters. At the facility’s full-scale test sites there are subsea cables which run from each test berth at sea to a substation onshore where they meet the UK national grid. EMEC also operates two scale test sites where smaller scale devices, or those at an earlier stage in their development, can gain real sea experience in less challenging conditions than those experienced at the full-scale wave and tidal test sites.
With 14 full-scale test berths, there have been more grid-connected marine energy converters deployed at EMEC than any other single site in the world, with developers attracted from around the globe. Orkney is an ideal base for the test facilities, with its excellent oceanic wave regime, strong tidal currents, grid connection, sheltered harbour facilities and the renewable, maritime and environmental expertise that exists within the local community.
In addition to device testing, the facility provides independently-verified performance assessments and a wide range of consultancy and research services, and is at the forefront in the development of international standards, having coordinated the development of 12 industry guidelines, six of which are being progressed for global adoption as the first international standards for marine energy.
The company is also involved in a variety of research projects ranging from site specific projects to national and international research projects, such as MARINET, an EC initiative, funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which aims to accelerate the development of marine renewable energy by creating a network of world-class testing facilities to offer developers periods of free access, and the opportunity to conduct coordinated research in order to standardise testing, improve testing capabilities and enhance training and networking. EMEC is involved in a range of MARINET activities including test site standardisation, facility access and research.
Arial view of Fall of Warness, EMEC tidal test site
EMEC also acts in a technical advisory capacity for the Intelligent Energy Europe-funded Streamlining of Ocean Wave Farm Impacts Assessment (SOWFIA) project, which aims to achieve the sharing and consolidation of pan-European experience of consenting processes and environmental and socio-economic impact assessment (IA) best practices for offshore wave energy conversion developments. Studies of wave farm demonstration projects in each of the collaborating EU nations are contributing to the findings. The study sites comprise a wide range of device technologies, environmental settings and stakeholder interests.
As such, EMEC occupies a unique position, having links with a range of different developers, academic institutions and regulatory bodies while remaining independent. The company is currently working with developers and experts in order to expand its research agenda to cover a range of industry-related environmental and operational issues. It works with regulators, government and developers alike in endeavouring to make full use of the device testing stages of the developing wave and tidal energy industries as they evolve from pre-prototype design through to commercial viability.
Tidal and wave energy solutions are often overshadowed by offshore wind, which attracts the lion’s share of the publicity generated by renewable energy. Nevertheless, wave and tidal energy has seen some progress and, as the EMEC project clearly illustrates, these technologies are attracting the interest of major industrial companies, thereby improving the credibility of the sector and making it a truly commercial proposition. The company’s clients include Europe’s E.ON, Vattenfall and Voith Hydro, along with international giants such as Kawasaki Heavy Industries.