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Welsh Marine Renewables Company Unveil ‘WaveSub’ Wave Energy Device  

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Marine Power Systems (MPS), a wave power technology development company based in Swansea will today unveil its quarter-scale wave energy generation device the WaveSub. The unveiling of the prototype at Pembroke Docks marks the start of a new sea-based phase for the WaveSub – a device that has been designed by MPS to address the four main challenges of energy generation at sea. Over the last nine years MPS has been focused on developing a wave energy generation device which has potential to advance the burgeoning marine energy industry by generating clean, reliable and affordable wave power. Moving to sea-based trials of the WaveSub represents a milestone in the global race to produce wave energy at a market-competitive price.

Following its unveiling, the quarter-scale WaveSub will be towed to the award-winning FaBTest site in Cornwall, England. Here MPS will demonstrate the WaveSub’s power-generation capacity across a broad range of sea conditions, the speed and cost-effective price at which it can be installed, its low maintenance costs and its survivability through the harshest of conditions.

The WaveSub operates by capturing wave energy far to mid offshore, harnessing the continual orbital motion of waves to drive a sophisticated power-take-off (PTO) system. Similar to offshore wind, the power generated is transferred to land with an undersea cable. At full-scale, a WaveSub device measuring 100 metres long, rated at 5MW, can power approximately 5,000 homes. This is a similar power output to a large off-shore wind turbine. Its depth-adjustability enables it to shelter from storms, minimising the stress put on the device and, crucially, to maintain an optimum energy generation in a broad range of sea states. Its size, components and materials have been diligently selected with a view to keeping manufacturing, transport and deployment costs down.

Dr Gareth Stockman, Chief Executive Officer of Marine Power Systems (MPS) commented:

“Following a decade of research and development, MPS is delighted to have hit this milestone in the evolution of the WaveSub. Thanks to its unique energy capture capabilities, resilience and transportability we believe the WaveSub can bring down the cost of wave power and help position the global renewable energy industry to source 10% of its electricity from wave power by 2050.

He continued:

“We would like to thank the Welsh Government for its support; not only of the WaveSub and its development, but also for investment in the wider marine renewables sector in Wales. With continued investment from public and private institutions, Wales can become a leading light in the marine renewables sector, bringing skilled jobs for many towns here and across the rest of the UK.”

Wave power represents a significant opportunity for clean renewable energy supply. The UK trade body Renewable UK recently stated that wave and tidal energy has the potential to deliver 20% of the UK’s present electricity needs at a 30-50GW installed capacity[i]. The Welsh marine sector, in which MPS is a key player, is particularly well set for growth; Marine Energy Wales claimed in March 2017 that marine developers active in Wales will invest £1.4bn over the next five years if the right incentives are in place for renewable energy. This follows a recent £76m investment in a marine energy centre around the Port of Milford Haven in South Wales. Along with the environmental benefit of cutting CO2 emissions and helping to meet climate change targets globally, committing to a long-term wave power vision would provide Wales with jobs, energy resilience and the associated economic benefits from being a leader in a new renewable energy sector.

Welsh Government Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford said:

“Marine energy is a sector where Wales is well-placed to be a leading player, and we are making substantial long-term investments to put us at the forefront of innovation in this field. The unveiling of the WaveSub prototype is a very exciting milestone for this sector in Wales. This is the culmination of cutting edge research and development taking place in Swansea and specialist engineering in Pembrokeshire, backed by almost £3m of EU and Welsh Government funding. It’s fantastic news that this pioneering project has taken another major step towards deployment.”

MPS has developed the WaveSub utilising over £5m of funding that it has secured through private investment and highly competitive grants. These include a Research Development & Innovation Grant from the Welsh Government as well as a £2.5m grant from the European Regional Development Fund, also awarded via the Welsh Government. Once the quarter scale prototype testing is underway, MPS will open its doors to a new round of investment to see it through to full scale WaveSub commercial deployment.