Prime Ministers’ support produces UK & Canada marine energy project

By anna smith

The UK’s European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), based in Orkney, and Canada’s Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) have kicked off a joint project looking at the difference in corrosion and underwater behaviour of marine coatings either side of the Atlantic.

Working with Whitford, a global leading high-performance coatings manufacturer, the two marine energy test facilities will look at how innovative marine coatings perform at both test centres.

The initiative can be traced back to a declaration made in 2011 by the then Prime Ministers of the UK and Canada, David Cameron and Stephen Harper, on increasing growth, trade and innovation. The resulting joint declaration committed Canada and the UK to working together to drive forward marine energy innovation.

That in turn led to Innovate UK and the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia (OERA) setting up a trans-Atlantic project, partnering EMEC and FORCE to work on the InSTREAM project testing sensor technology.

EMEC and FORCE’s collaboration dates back to 2011 when they committed to a strategic agreement to make their research efforts smarter, faster, and more coordinated. Since then, they have been openly sharing their experiences, building a close working relationship.

For example, it was during a recent visit to Nova Scotia, when it became clear to EMEC's Managing Director, Neil Kermode, that he might have an application relevant to the FORCE project:

“Corrosion and other associated issues are a big challenge for wave and tidal energy technologies given that devices could be deployed at sea for years at a time. During discussions we realised that the marine conditions experienced at FORCE’s test site in Nova Scotia are very different from what we are seeing across the pond at EMEC, in Orkney. So the inclusion of a technology testing program with us will provide a different experience if they then decide to deploy in Canada, or vice versa.

“The conditions experienced by FORCE's sensor lander got me thinking about the Whitford coatings we have been testing in Orkney. A quick call to Whitford confirmed that they were keen to see how applicable their products are in the Canadian waters and we already knew the FORCE team welcome collaborative research.”

Tony Wright of FORCE said: "Working in the Bay of Fundy, our sensor platforms have to operate in extreme high-flow conditions. Our site experiences 14 billion tonnes of water every tide, moving at speeds above 20 kilometres an hour. Working in the world's highest tides is a challenge, but also an opportunity for technologies to meet the ultimate test of durability: the 'Fundy Standard.'

EMEC and FORCE are both working to advance the marine renewable energy sector responsibly and economically, and opportunities like this - to share research, knowledge, and technology - is critical to that work."

Jointly studying issues like marine growth, corrosion, and other outstanding environmental and technological questions will ensure developers have the right approach wherever they end up deploying their technologies.”

Whitford and EMEC have been working together since 2014, conducting tests on the performance of coatings in the dynamic and volatile environments found at EMEC’s test sites in Orkney. Gareth

Berry of Whitford is complimentary of how the two centres brought him the opportunity. “Working with EMEC has been great. We have proven so much about our product and that is leading to sales. The Canadian market is really big due to the scale of the marine energy resource and we are keen to get our product tested and proven there too. When we heard about FORCE and EMEC's ideas we jumped at the chance,” Whitford said.

Rob Saunders of Innovate UK stated that he was delighted to see EMEC and FORCE working together on this new project:

“We helped make the InSTREAM project happen after the Prime Ministers’ declaration. Hearing that other projects have spun out of that announcement independent of Government is really rewarding,” he said.

Mr Kermode adds that this is just the beginning, and there will be opportunities to expand this research project further to get a full understanding how new materials behave at different sites across the globe.

“So much learning has taken place at EMEC and FORCE already, however synergies can be created by learning together: parallel processing of innovation is the key to getting the cost curve down quickly. The more we can do in parallel, the greater the rate of learning.

“The corrosion and other behaviour experienced in the northern hemisphere will be different from that in the south, and it’ll be different in the tropics compared to temperate areas. The potential for marine energy however is global, and technology developers will need to be prepared for this.”

“Knowing there is the support at the highest levels to drive forward innovation is really important. We are sure that the results will benefit both Canada and the UK in their plans to harvest sustainable energy from the oceans.”

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