Name: Robin Wallace
The SuperGen UK Centre for Marine Energy Research (UKCMER) is a consortium of Universities and a Research Advisory Board made up of members from research institutes and industry. Those involved and their level of involvement varies with the phase of the project (see website for further details). The Centre Operates a Doctoral Training Programme that works closely with the IDCORE EngD Programme and the Centre for Doctoral Training on Offshore Renewable Energy.
The United Kingdom Centre for Marine Renewable Energy (UKCMER) is a virtual centre, funded under the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) SUPERGEN (Sustainable PowER GENeration) initiative. UKCMER seeks to coordinate research in renewable electricity generation using the power of the waves, tidal currents and floating wind turbines. In addition to conducting a core research programme UKCMER acts as a hub to coordinate the activities of four additional Grand Challenge projects looking at specific challenges for the marine energy sector:
- All Electrical Drive Train for Marine Energy Converters (EDRIVE-MEC);
- FloWTurb: Response of Tidal Energy Converters to Combined Tidal Flow, Waves, and Turbulence;
- Dynamic Loadings on Turbines in a Tidal Array (DyLoTTA); and
- SURFTEC: SUrvivability and Reliability of Floating Tidal Energy Converters.
The research of the Marine Energy Consortium focuses on developing the potential for future exploitation of the marine energy resource. The environmental research in the SuperGen program is distributed among the following work packages:
- SuperGen Phase 1 Work Package 12: The Economic, Environmental and Social Impact of New Marine Technologies for the Production of Electricity.
- SuperGen Phase 2 Work Package 10: Ecological Consequences of Tidal and Wave Energy Conversion: aimed to establish the sensitivity of marine environments to the artificial extraction of energy from tidal currents and waves, to enable the quantification of the risk from device developments and for subsequent mitigation, monitoring or avoidance strategies to be evaluated.
- SuperGen Phase 3: Environmental interaction – to understand the 3D time varying interaction between single and multiple devices and the energy and natural environment arising from the local and large-scale abstraction of energy through electricity generation.
UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Strangford Narrows (Strangforth Loch; Northern Ireland) and Orkney coast.
The research of the marine energy consortium focuses on the future exploitation of the marine energy resource.
Phase 1 undertook generic research with the following long-term objectives.
- To increase knowledge and understanding of device-sea interactions of energy converters from model-scale in the laboratory to full size in the open sea;
- Reduce risk and uncertainty for stakeholders in the development and deployment of technology;
- Enable progression of marine technology and energy into true positions in future energy portfolios
Phase 2 of the programme includes work on: device arrays and how these will influence local and regional environmental conditions, radical design approaches which take into account new philosophies of design guidance; ensuring that numerical and physical design support is consistent and robust; the challenges posed by design in mixed tidal and wave environments; system control in complex non-linear and evolving environments; the complex challenges posed by fixing, mooring and recovery of marine systems; the economic challenges posed by the variable and intermittent nature of the marine resource; the sparse information available to predict and assess the long term reliability of marine energy systems and how an increased understanding of all of these issues can be best disseminated within the stakeholder community.
Phase 3 involved two £3 million research funding calls by the SuperGen UK Centre for Marine Energy Research. The remit of the first call, made in 2011, was as follows:
- Large scale interactive coupled 3D modelling for wave and tidal energy resource and environmental impact.
- Technology for device and environmental monitoring
- Understanding extreme loading events and impact on devices and arrays.
The second call was intended to stimulate novel research that focussed on far term goals that could influence marine energy in 2050. The topics of interest with a focus on the environmental impact included developing an understanding of very large array systems and their impact on the marine environment.
The two research calls commissioned in phase 3 of the project have so far led to the funding of 13 new research projects managed by the UKCMER hub. Those projects involved in research on the environmental impact of marine energy include:
- Interactions of flow, tidal stream turbines and local sediment bed under combined waves and tidal conditions
- Large scale interactive coupled modelling of environmental impacts of marine renewable energy farms
Phase 3 of the SuperGen project ended in September 2016. The existing hub of UKCMER was renewed in Phase 4 in October 2016.
Research in the fourth phase (2017+) of UKCMER is focusing on:
- Methods to enhance the performance of tidal turbines that recognise that arrays of machines are affected by both the interactions of the water flowing passed the devices and the electrical infrastructure which collects the energy generated and sends it to the grid.
- The development of design tools to assist in the optimal design of wave energy converters, tidal turbines and floating wind turbines that account for the random nature of both the waves and turbulence in the marine environment.
- Methods to explore the response of wave energy converters, tidal turbines and floating wind turbines to extreme loading events, recognising that such events arise from a combination of steep (rather than large waves) and the state of the device when the waves reach it.
- Examining how the wakes of tidal turbines deployed in farms interact with each other so that the power production from the farm can be optimised.
- Examining how new designs and materials can improve the structural integrity of offshore renewable energy converters. The research programme has been designed to be complementary to the existing grand challenge projects and will make use of early results from these projects.
Phase 4 of UKCMER will continue to:
- Conduct world-class fundamental and applied research that assists the wave, tidal and offshore wind energy sectors to accelerate deployment and ensure growth in generating capacity towards 2030 and 2050 targets;
- Train the next generation of UK, European and international researchers, industry graduates and policy makers;
- Expand and operate an inclusive marine network of academic researchers, industry and policy partners and international collaborators; and
- Provide the highest quality of policy engagement and knowledge transfer.
There are significant common needs fundamental to applied research spanning wave, tidal, offshore wind and, now, floating offshore wind energy technologies:
- Analysis and performance prediction of fully coupled hydro- aero- and electro-dynamic devices;
- Fluid structure interaction;
- Cost effective manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance;
- Survival of extreme and fatigue loadings; and
- Environmental and economic viability.
In July 2018 a new SuperGen Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Hub was created which aimed to bring together for mutual benefit the related research areas of wave, tidal and offshore wind in order to share skills, resources and expertise across the field of ORE.
The SuperGen ORE Hub was initially awarded £5 million by EPSRC in July 2018, and in June 2019 further received an additional £4 million to expand the support it offers researchers working across the country. The grant will also enable an additional number of post-doctoral research to be employed across the 10 partner universities, expanding the Hub’s Early Career Researchers Network.
To develop the area, or 'research challenges', strategy for the SuperGen ORE Hub and its associated programme of Core and Flexible Fund supported research, industry roadmaps for offshore renewable energy have been synthesised through extensive consultation exercises with industry and other stakeholders, including the Advisory Board and Research Alignment Group. These exercises have resulted in the identification of eight key Research Challenge themes, including ‘Environmental and Ecosystem Aspects’, which the SuperGen ORE Hub will look to address.
Research is wide ranging and aims to fill the many knowledge gaps, both technical and environmental, in order to progress the industry towards commercialisation. Visit the website for further info.