2017: Reflecting on a Significant Year for MPS

It has been quite a year. Within the last 12 months Marine Power Systems have surged forward towards its long-term ambition to unleash the energy generation potential of the ocean’s waves. Last December Welsh Minister Jane Hutt joined us to deliver the announcement that MPS had reached a significant milestone with the build stage of WaveSub. Then, just a couple of months ago, we unveiled our 1:4 scale WaveSub prototype energy device as complete and therefore ready to embark on a new, sea-test-phase.

This, more recent unveiling took place on a stormy day at Pembroke Dock on Friday 13 October (we marine engineers are not a superstitious bunch). Our objectives for this event were twofold. The first: to celebrate reaching a key milestone in the build and technical design of the WaveSub. The second: to gather all the people who have and will play a part in WaveSub’s journey to market. Our audience included stakeholders, investors, a Government Minister, members of our supply chain, academic partners, policy makers and, of course, the MPS team. We are grateful to all of them for their continued support. Press coverage was extensive. The BBC Wales News team covered the launch along with a number of leading renewable titles including Business GreenRENews and Tidal Energy Today.

At the unveiling, our WaveSub animation screening (see our homepage) was followed by a speech from the Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, Mark Drakeford. Mark spoke about the Welsh Government’s support for the WaveSub in the context of the growing marine energy sector in Wales. He emphasised that Wales is superbly well-placed to become a leading player in marine renewable energy. Thanks to our EU, WEFO funding, the sector has been able to progress with cutting edge research and development. MPS have certainly benefited from EU Structural funding. Along with a number of other grants (which I mention in more detail below), EU Structural funds have enabled us to proceed at pace with the construction of the WaveSub.

But what else did 2017 feature for MPS?

As a company we’ve grown. We have recently expanded our team with several engineers, with expertise in device testing and design engineering; they are now on board to help us oversee the WaveSub testing as well as design and development of the full scale, multi-MW WaveSub.

In October we were awarded Wave Energy Scotland (WES) funding to further develop the control system for the WaveSub, in collaboration with Bath University. An ongoing collaboration with Plymouth University’s COAST laboratory has seen us support two further MSc students (Masters Program in marine renewables) through our tank-testing phase. This strong collaboration has been in place for a number of years and we look forward to its continuation into 2018 and beyond. Work with Swansea University as part of a KESS PhD student scholarship has continued as well as work with ASTUTE 2020 which looks at computational modelling and simulation of the WaveSub.

It has been a busy conference scene. The Wave & Tidal conference which took place in London back in March was a great chance to see the level of innovation and progress being made in the UK marine energy sector, as well as leading developers OEM’s, financial and innovation funding experts, technical and safety professionals, regulators and Government stakeholders. Thanks to public and private investment of over £450 million, the UK is now deemed a leading innovator in this sector. MPS also attended the Ocean Energy Europe event in France this October as part of the Welsh Government podium. Here our CTO, Dr Graham Foster presented in a ‘Tech on the High Seas’ wave energy showcase which was highly commended.

The subject of job creation and sector development was taken a step further just before the Marine Energy Conference in Swansea (also in March) when UK PM Theresa May launched the Swansea City Bay Regional Deal. The deal pledges to mobilise up to £1.3bn for a host of low carbon initiatives including the £76m Pembroke Dock Marine Project. Prime Minister May stated that it was the Government’s objective to place Wales at the ‘forefront of science and innovation’, with the deal set to provide 9,000 new jobs in the region.

News that Wave Hub, is planning to build a Pembrokeshire Demo Zone was announced in the first half of this year. The site, to be located on our doorstep, is perfectly placed for deployment of WaveSub devices. This Demo Zone will boost the local economy and demonstrates that Wales is serious about becoming a marine centre of excellence. As David Jones, Marine Energy Wales said, it is ‘with sensible, structured and steady investment that the marine sector can gather momentum to become a global leader in its field.’ Initiatives like this, which facilitate the testing of multiple large-scale offshore renewable energy arrays, play a vital role in maintaining the UK’s position as innovation leader in this sector.

In June MPS launched its first report: Making Wave Power WorkThe report provides an analysis of the economic and environmental potential that wave power offers both the UK and the rest of the world. It calls on industry and trade bodies to target a 10% contribution of wave power to global energy production by 2050. The report was well received by media. As well as a radio interview with BBC Wales, the report was covered by leading renewable publications including Business GreenCleanTechnica and Edie amongst others.

By the end of July, MPS had completed three weeks of tank testing at the Ocean Basin Laboratory, Plymouth, financed via a highly competitive Innovate UK grant (Energy Catalyst Fund). Testing enabled us to optimise the design of the WaveSub as well as assess its performance across a range of simulated storm conditions. Positive results expedited our development trajectory and provided us with a real understanding of how competitive the LCOE (Levellised Cost of Energy) for the WaveSub is.

2017 was a significant year for MPS. 2018 is set to be bigger still. In the New Year the WaveSub will begin its period of rigorous sea-based testing. In parallel, we will embark on the detailed design stage of the full scale WaveSub, ahead of procurement and construction, and start raising finance for this major phase in the system’s development through private finance and grants. We will continue to expand the IP portfolio in line with our progress / developments as well as further expand the MPS team.

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll all have a chance to relax and reflect on a year of successful endeavours with mince pies and a roaring fire. I’ll be keeping you updated on all the exciting progress next year via the blog. Meanwhile, from all of us at MPS – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.