Marine Power Systems (MPS), a wave power technology development company based in Wales, UK, has today unveiled its quarter-scale, prototype WaveSub wave energy generator, marking its move to a new, sea-based phase of its development. The event marks a milestone in the global race to produce wave energy at a market-competitive price.

Over the last nine years MPS has developed the WaveSub, using over £5million of funding secured through private investment and highly competitive grants, including a research development and innovation grant from the Welsh Government, as well as a £2 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund. The energy generation device, built and assembled in Wales, has been designed to address the four main challenges of energy generation at sea. It promises to move forward the burgeoning marine energy industry by generating reliable, affordable wave power.

The WaveSub operates by capturing wave energy around 10km from shore, utilising the continual orbital motion of waves to drive a sophisticated power-take-off (PTO) system. Similar to offshore wind, the power generated is transferred to land with an undersea cable. At full-scale, a WaveSub device measuring 100 metres long and rated at 5-megawatts, can power approximately 5,000 homes. This is a similar power output to a very large offshore wind turbine. Its depth-adjustability enables it to ‘hide’ from storms, minimising the stress put on the device and, crucially, to maintain an optimum energy generation in a broad range of sea states. Its size, components and materials have been diligently selected with a view to keeping manufacturing, transport and deployment costs down.

Following today’s unveiling at Pembroke Dock, the WaveSub will be towed to the award-winning marine test site FaBTest in Cornwall, England. Here MPS will demonstrate the WaveSub’s power-generation capacity across a broad range of sea conditions, the speed and cost-effective price at which it can be installed, its low maintenance costs and its survivability through the harshest of conditions.

Wave power represents a significant opportunity for clean renewable energy supply, with a total wave resource across the globe estimated by the International Energy Agency to be around 80,000 terawatt hours (TWh) / year, of which up to 4,000TWh / year is considered economically exploitable. Total global electricity consumption is currently circa 21,000 TWh / year. This is set to potentially double by 2050 depending on the trajectory of population growth, energy efficiency and the rise of electric transport. The global value of the marine renewables industry has been estimated by the International Energy Agency to be worth over £70bn by 2050 . Leading industry body Ocean Energy Europe reinforced this projection, stating 337GW of marine renewables could be deployed globally by 20502. In its recently released report Making Wave Power Work, MPS outlines its vision for wave power to contribute to 10% of global electricity demand by 2050, citing that the UK alone has 35% of Europe’s wave energy generation potential.

Dr Gareth Stockman, Chief Executive Officer of Marine Power Systems (MPS) commented: “With nearly a decade of research and development invested in the WaveSub, we are now at a point where an affordable, scalable and reliable wave energy device is within our reach. With continued government support and private investment, the WaveSub can bring down the cost of wave power generation so that in time it can compete favourably with offshore wind in terms of energy generation costs. The testing of the quarter-scale WaveSub at FaBTest represents a milestone for MPS – we are delighted to have reached this point in its development.”

The UK’s renewable energy trade body Renewable UK recently stated that wave and tidal energy has the potential to deliver 20% of the country’s present electricity needs at a 30-50GW installed capacity. The Welsh marine sector, in which MPS is a key player, is particularly well set for growth; Marine Energy Wales claimed in March 2017 that marine developers active in Wales will invest £1.4bn over the next five years if the right incentives are in place for renewable energy. This follows a recent £76million investment in a marine energy centre around the Port of Milford Haven in South Wales. Along with the environmental benefit of cutting CO2 emissions and helping to meet climate change targets globally, committing to a long-term wave power vision would provide jobs, energy resilience and the associated economic benefits from being a leader in a new renewable energy sector.

Welsh Government Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford said: “Marine energy is a sector where Wales is well-placed to be a leading player, and we are making substantial long-term investments to put us at the forefront of innovation in this field. The unveiling of the WaveSub prototype is a very exciting milestone for this sector in Wales. This is the culmination of cutting edge research and development taking place in Swansea and specialist engineering in Pembrokeshire, backed by almost £3m of EU and Welsh Government funding. It’s fantastic news that this pioneering project has taken another major step towards deployment.”

As it moves into this new phase of testing, MPS is launching an investment opportunity to enable it to move into the final stages of development before commercialisation; the testing of a full-scale multi-MW WaveSub. With investment in place, MPS will be on track to begin installation of a grid connected wave farm by 2020.