Leading by Example and Embracing Big Ambition

By Dr Gareth Stockman, Chief Executive Officer, Marine Power Systems (MPS)

In this blog our CEO Gareth Stockman considers a bold climate action to emerge from the USA before charting MPS’s progress and looking ahead to the next few months.

Last month, our Chief Technical Officer Graham Foster wrote on this blog about climate change and the environmental imperative for renewables. It was largely inspired by extreme summer weather events which took place around the world.

Over in the USA, California has taken a particular battering on the weather front. This summer’s wildfires were the largest the state has ever seen. Over the last decade it has experienced the worst drought in over a millennium as well as record-breaking precipitation levels. It was interesting to read, therefore, that state lawmakers recently passed a bill – the SB100 – which outlines a commitment to switch to 100% carbon-free energy by 2045.

This is an important step – not only because of the lack of climate integrity being offered by the USA’s current leadership but because California is the world’s fifth largest economy. Bills like this can have serious impact. California also has more than 1,200 km of coastline and is well placed to embrace marine renewables as part of its strategy to move towards a zero-carbon energy setup. Ultimately, this kind of action can act as a metaphor for us all; to set ambitious targets that will support our low carbon energy systems of the future and boost our economies simultaneously.

Shifting our focus into the world of WaveSub, over the last couple of months we’ve been progressing through our test programme at FaBTest.

Among the technical details that we’ve already established about the WaveSub is that the device can be towed easily at speeds of up to 6 knots, that the four-point mooring system takes less than three days to be installed and that the connection of the WaveSub to the mooring system can be completed in just a few hours.

These features; easy to tow, install and connect to grid all tie in to our long-term engineering objective to build a wave energy device that can provide clean, affordable and reliable energy by addressing the major challenges of energy generation at sea.

We spoke about the challenges of building a device that can withstand the harshness of the marine environment in our report, Making Wave Power Work, which this summer marked its first anniversary. The report outlines that along with the creation of a device that is maneuverable and quick to install and maintain, there exist a number of other criteria that a wave energy device must address. These include optimised energy capture, adaptability/survivability and low manufacturing/maintenance costs.

Referring back to the Making Wave Power Work report, it is reassuring to see that all of our core arguments and calls to action still hold firm. In it, we call on industry and Government to help unleash the huge energy generation potential that the world’s oceans offer. We estimated that 10% of the world’s energy needs could be met by wave energy by 2050 and stand by that figure today.

Our report also made a call on UK Government to ramp up support for the UK’s world-leading marine tech and energy sector, and to distinguish it from more developed technologies such as wind and solar.

These words were echoed by Andrew Scott, CEO of Scotrenewables, who announced last month that the company’s SR2000 tidal turbine had smashed all energy generation expectations. The device ‘produced more power over the last 12 months than the entire Scottish marine energy sector managed in the 12 years prior to its launch.’

This progress from Scotrenewables is testament to how far the marine energy sector has come in the last decade. As Scott rightly said, UK Government need to urgently put in place a market mechanism that is fit for purpose within the marine energy sector. Only with support systems in place will we truly be able to enjoy the success that the sector has worked so hard to achieve. Following the Scotrenewables announcement, it emerged that a multimillion pound investment has provided Scotrenewables with a cash injection, to help it progress its tidal turbine through to commercialisation.

Speaking of support, MPS met with the Welsh Government at an industry event last week where we caught up with Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford and provided him and with an update on the WaveSub’s progress. As part of this event were given news on how things are going at Pembroke Dock Marine – a world-class centre for marine energy development, fabrication, testing and deployment being led by Port of Milford HavenMarine Energy WalesOffshore Renewable Energy Catapult and WaveHub). All is looking extremely positive – something that current First Minister Carwyn Jones asserted earlier this year when he spoke about progress that the Welsh marine sector is making and the support that the Welsh Government are committed to providing.

Suffice to say, local support for the marine energy sector is hugely welcome. MPS looks forward to playing a leading role in this sector as we move the WaveSub towards a position of market-readiness. Though our industry might still be in the early stages of development, when it comes to big, bold renewable ambition, we’re reading from exactly the same page as California.