Wave energy's new pearl: University begins testing Oyster tech off Scottish coast

There's a lot of power in the ocean. Scotland begins its latest test of wave energy off Orkney.

Queen's University in Belfast, Ireland, has launched an official test of the Oyster, wave energy equipment that was developed jointly by the university with Aquamarine Power.

Here's a photo (gotta love the scuba diver in the background):

The device works by pumping high-pressure water into an onshore hydro-electric turbine. The test, which is sited off Orkney, is being used to feed electricity into the national grid. The university has been testing various wave technologies in a wave tank facility and this is the third prototype it has developed in the past two decades as part of its sustainable development program. Oyster is a modular sort of technology and it is being installed near shore in an array design. A farm of 20 Oysters would power roughly 9,000 three-bedroom homes.

If you want to read more about wave energy, here's another post I wrote about the topic. The press release announcing the installation describes Oyster as the world's largest working hydro-electric technology. Given the conditions on the Scottish coast, the country is optimistic about the wave energy industry's potential to produce green jobs. Estimates calls for the creation of 12,500 positions by the year 2020. (That's just 10 years now, folks!) Wave technology could provide up to 20 percent of the United Kingdom's energy needs, the group estimates.

Here's a video from Aquamarine of the Oyster technology.

Here are some comments from the launch by Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond:

"Scotland's potential renewables capacity is estimated to be around 60GW. Our waters hold around 10 percent of Europe's wave power potential and as much as a quarter of its tidal power potential. The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) provides world-leading test facilities for Aquamarine and other companies to develop the technology needed to harness this huge untapped potential."

Note to self: After I get through spending lots of downtime diving next week in Belize, I need to investigate what else is new in the world of wave energy.

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