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A new four-year project will test the viability of large-scale wave energy in Europe

This image shows waters off the coast of Orkney, an archipelago north of the Scottish mainland that’s home to the European Marine Energy Centre.
Capchure | Moment | Getty Images

A 19.6 million euro (around $19.3 million) initiative centered around commercializing large-scale wave energy projects will be officially launched later on Wednesday, in a move that marks another step forward for the emerging sector.

The collaboration, called WEDUSEA, involves 14 partners from academia and industry, with funding coming from Innovate UK and the European Union’s Horizon Europe program.

The launch will take place at the International Conference on Ocean Energy, which is being held in the coastal city of San Sebastian, in Spain.

WEDUSEA is being coordinated by OceanEnergy, an Irish firm that’s developed the OE35, a piece of kit that’s been dubbed “the world’s largest capacity floating wave energy device.” Capacity refers to the amount of electricity a generator is able to produce when operating at full volume.

According to a statement released by the European Marine Energy Centre earlier this week, WEDUSEA is set to last four years, with its initial phase concentrating on the design of a 1 megawatt version of the OE35.

“This will be followed by a two-year grid connected demonstration at the European Marine Energy Centre’s … Billia Croo wave energy test site in Orkney, Scotland,” the statement added.

Orkney is an archipelago located in waters north of the Scottish mainland. EMEC, which is based there, has become a major hub for the development of wave and tidal power since its inception in 2003.

In another statement, OceanEnergy said a third phase of the project would look at commercialization, among other things. An overarching goal of the project is to “create a technology deployment pathway for a 20 MW pilot farm,” according to EMEC.

“The innovative actions taken in this programme aim to improve the efficiency, reliability, scalability and sustainability of wave energy technology, and reduce the LCOE of the technology by over 30%,” Myles Heward, who is project manager at EMEC, said. “This will help to de-risk investments in wave energy.”

LCOE refers to levelized cost of energy, a term the U.S. database Tethys defines as being “the measure of a device’s lifetime costs divided by energy production.”

Tony Lewis, OceanEnergy’s chief technical officer, was bullish about the prospects for WEDUSEA.

He said the project would “demonstrate that wave technology is on a cost reduction trajectory and will thus be a stepping stone to larger commercial array scale up and further industrialisation.”

“We predict that the natural energy of the world’s oceans will one day supply much of the grid,” Lewis added.

While there is excitement about the potential of marine energy, the footprint of wave and tidal stream projects remains very small compared to other renewables.

In data released in March 2022, Ocean Energy Europe said 2.2 MW of tidal stream capacity was installed in Europe last year, compared to just 260 kilowatts in 2020.

For wave energy, 681 kW was installed, which OEE said was a threefold increase. Globally, 1.38 MW of wave energy came online in 2021, while 3.12 MW of tidal stream capacity was installed.

By way of comparison, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity in 2021, according to figures from industry body WindEurope.

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