European Marine Energy Centre

EMEC is essentially a plug-and-play facility set up to reduce the cost, time and risk of testing offshore power generation.

Our story

The drive towards a net zero carbon neutral future is at the heart of everything we do at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).

Based in Orkney, an archipelago off the north of Scotland, our islands are blessed with abundant renewable energy resources. EMEC was set up in 2003 to enable wave and tidal energy technologies – machines that harness the power of the sea – to test in the ocean. The resources in Orkney truly put these machines to the test with waves of over 18 meters - imagine standing next to a six-storey building - and a peak tidal flow of around 8 knots – that’s approximately half a billion tonnes of water passing through our tidal site an hour.

The technologies testing with us not only have to survive these extreme conditions but generate power from.

EMEC is essentially a plug-and-play facility set up to reduce the cost, time and risk of testing offshore with pre-consented grid-connected sites. To date, we have hosted more ocean energy technologies than any other site in the world.

One of the more recent demonstrations was by a local Orkney-based company, Orbital Marine Power. Their floating tidal turbine generated over 3 GWh of renewable electricity over the course of a year, producing around 7% of Orkney’s electricity needs. Orbital are currently working on the next iteration of their turbine, due to be demonstrated at EMEC early 2021.

We’re also working on projects to help progress floating offshore wind, supporting the development of an offshore test site in Ireland to demonstrate a floating wind technology.

Ocean energy testing is what EMEC is best known for, however our operations have developed significantly through the years as we’ve found our infrastructure, skills and knowledge are in demand for progressing other low-carbon technologies as well.

Today we’re also pioneering the development of a green hydrogen economy here in Orkney. When recreated using renewable power, hydrogen is a carbon neutral fuel as it does not emit carbon when burnt.

Due to local grid constraints, which continue to pose a barrier to Orkney realising its full renewables potential, we set up an onshore hydrogen production plant next to our tidal energy substation. In 2017 we generated the world’s first tidal-powered hydrogen.

This has led to us working on a range of pioneering hydrogen projects, from generating hydrogen using tidal energy, to decarbonising Orkney’s lifeline services, and even looked into hydrogen-powered gin.

We’re also involved in wider energy systems demonstration projects. Microsoft demonstrated a 450 kW subsea data centre at our wave test site from 2018-2020, and EMEC is leading an exciting new project called ReFLEX Orkney looking to decarbonise the wider energy system, integrating electricity, transport and heat systems in Orkney using clever software coupled with an increase of flexible demand assets like batteries and electric vehicles.

What have you learnt that others will find most useful?

  • Lots of learning around site development, installation, moorings, survivability, operations, H&S, supply chain, reliability, performance, environmental impacts, and decommissioning.

Measures of success?

Commercialised tidal energy. Commercialised wave energy. A green hydrogen economy.

Read more: http://www.emec.org.uk

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