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Swansea, Cardiff, Cardiff Metropolitan and Bangor Universities add their expertise to MEECE to support the growth of the Welsh offshore renewable energy sector

Four of the top universities in Wales have now formally joined the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE), based in Pembroke Dock, following implementation of the Swansea Bay City Deal.

Swansea, Cardiff, Cardiff Metropolitan and Bangor Universities will support innovation projects through ORE Catapult’s flagship hub for advancing the Welsh marine and offshore renewable energy sectors. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government and Swansea Bay City Deal, MEECE is part of the £60-million-pound Pembroke Dock Marine Project. It is a catalyst for research, technology innovation and testing and demonstration to accelerate the commercialisation of the wave, tidal and offshore wind sectors by reducing the cost of energy, improving efficiency and reliability, and supporting the growth of the Welsh supply chain.

Each of the four universities will bring unique capabilities to enhance the value the Centre offers to the growing Welsh offshore renewable energy industry and supply chain. Swansea University will act as lead academic partner and will coordinate activity within the university partners, working closely with organisations including UK EPSRC, Supergen ORE, Ocean Energy Europe and other coordinating bodies to ensure that projects are complementary to other funded activities. Swansea also has extensive experience in numerical modelling and the physical testing of wave and tidal devices and has developed several open-source design tools in collaboration with the marine energy industry, whilst also operating a wave flume and wind tunnel.

Cardiff University’s Cardiff Marine Energy Research Group (CMERG) and Hydro-environmental Research Centre (HRC) have tested some of the most advanced scale models of tidal stream turbines, leading to a greater understanding of how the dynamic tidal environment influences turbine performance and reliability. It also has expertise in hydro-environmental and computational fluid dynamics modelling to enhance the design of various devices and assess their far-field impacts as well as operating several flume tanks and tidal basins. Their work includes developing state-of-the-art methods for optimising the operation of tidal range schemes and assessing their impacts.

Cardiff Metropolitan’s research interests are in the areas of sustainable and resilient supply chains, ethics, and corporate social responsibility and its impact on managing our global supply chains, as well as renewable technology supply chain capacity and development.

Finally, Bangor University has particular strengths in physical oceanography research. It has developed advanced numerical modelling capabilities to characterise wave and tidal energy resources, as well as the impacts of extracting energy from the ocean. It has also undertaken a plethora of survey work in potential marine energy sites around the Welsh coastline.

The Universities will hit the ground running, supporting four new MEECE-led projects. Swansea will support Natural Power and Anakata in the design and testing of aerodynamic add-ons, referred to as vortex generators, to improve the energy yield of wind turbines as well as supporting Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company (PBFC) in the design and testing of a simple and scalable seaweed growing system for offshore environments for the purposes of carbon offsetting.

Bangor University will also be involved in two projects, supporting Applied Petroleum Technology (APT) in the development of a user-friendly, cloud-based constraints mapping tool to streamline the development and planning of offshore wind farms, and Sea Watch Foundation (SWF) in the development of a mobile app for use by the public to register sightings of cetaceans, which can be used to assist project developers during the consenting process of offshore renewable energy projects.

Dr Stephen Wyatt, Research & Innovation Director for ORE Catapult, said: “Having our university partners onboard will greatly enhance the MEECE offering to the Welsh offshore wind, wave and tidal energy sectors. We will be able to draw on their unique and world-leading facilities and expertise to complement our own and drive technology innovation, supporting existing businesses and new companies looking to set up in the region to grasp the huge economic opportunities on offer.”

Professor Ian Masters, MEECE Research Lead, Swansea University, said: “Teamwork is what Wales is good at. This country with the sea on three sides has the right team to make Marine Energy a success. I am proud to be working with the other universities to deliver great science and engineering to deliver marine renewable energy for Wales.”