Pelamis Wave Power
Founded in 1998 by Pelamis inventor Dr Richard Yemm, alongside Dr David Pizer and Dr Chris Retzler, Pelamis Wave Power designs, manufactures and operates the Pelamis wave energy converter. Years of extensive research and development of the Pelamis concept, using numerical modelling and tank testing of scale models, informed the building of a full scale prototype Pelamis machine. The prototype was first tested at the European Marine Energy Centre in August 2004 and became the first commercial scale offshore wave power machine to successfully generate electricity into the national grid.
Since 1998, the Pelamis development programme has covered all aspects of the design from the fundamental concept refinement through to accelerated cycle testing of individual components for reliability.
During the first phase of Pelamis development prior to full-scale operations in 2004, extensive numerical modelling and analysis and a range of technology demonstration models at different scales were used to understand survival characteristics in extreme waves and verify the accuracy of our simulations. Numerical modelling and scale testing continues to be an important part of the research and development of Pelamis technology, and is discussed in more detail under 'Testing & Verification'.
The Pelamis full scale prototype machine was tested at the European Marine Energy Centre between 2004 and 2007. It was launched in early 2004 and first installed at EMEC in August 2004 following a series of sea trials in the North Sea.
The Pelamis prototype was the world’s first commercial scale wave energy converter to generate electricity to a national grid from offshore waves.
In 2006 the prototype was upgraded to the same specification as the production machines used in the Aguçadoura project. Further sea trials were carried out on the upgraded machine before it was reinstalled at the EMEC site in March 2007. The machine then completed a further extensive phase of testing, meeting a large number of critical test objectives.
The prototype was 120m long and 3.5m in diameter and comprised four tube sections linked by three, shorter, power conversion modules. Testing of this machine proved the Pelamis concept, machine handling, grid connection, and that power generation and behaviour was matched with numerical models.
Aspects of the testing of the prototype were supported by the npower Juice Fund.
The three machine farm had an installed capacity of 2.25MW.
Pelamis carried out the main structural fabrication and project assembly of power conversion modules in Scotland before shipping the main units to Peniche, Portugal for final assembly and commissioning.
The three machines were installed and operated in 2008, generating sustained power to the grid with close agreement to the Pelamis simulations. However, the project ended earlier than planned, with the three machines returning to harbour, due the financial collapse of Enersis’s parent company, Babcock & Brown. Despite this disappointment, the project was an extremely important milestone for Pelamis Wave Power, proving the company’s ability to deliver, construct and control a farm of machines and to understand and solve the engineering challenges encountered along the way.
Two main technical issues were encountered. The first affected the foam buoyancy attached to the subsea quick connection system (not part of the machines), the replacement of which caused a delay to the first machine installation in July. The second involved the cylindrical bearings of the machine where online instrumentation detected a higher wear rate than was expected. This was discovered to be due to faulty lateral movement of the cylindrical bearing face which was subsequently resolved.
The experience of building and operating the three P1 machines transformed Pelamis into an organisation with a much more advanced understanding of all aspects of machine design, build, and operation. The experience gained feeds directly into the intensive two year development programme for our second generation, P2 Pelamis.
Some achievements from the Aguçadoura Wave Farm:
- Built and operated the world’s first wave farm
- Power matched very closely with simulations, giving confidence in design tools
- Proved reliable and automated generation and transmission systems
- Developed build procedures and processes – refined for application on subsequent builds with great success
- Proved remote control & monitoring of the farm
- Created a safe & cost effective maintenance base
- Maintained high safety record in all operations
- Installed all offshore mooring and electrical infrastructure without the need for large expensive vessels
- Successfully demonstrated the off-site maintenance strategy
- Demonstrated installation of 2 machines in less than 24 hours, with 5 hour towing time
- Highly competent and experienced team was developed and maintained into the future
- The supply chain for the Pelamis was further enhanced and developed
The Pelamis P2 machine is the second-generation Pelamis machine and includes a number of significant design improvements. The P2 design machine has been sold to utility customers E.ON and ScottishPower Renewables, and P2 machines are currently being tested for a number of commercial scale projects.
- At 180m long, 4m diameter and approximately 1350 tonnes in weight (mostly sand ballast), the P2 Pelamis is wider, longer and heavier than the P1 design machine. This allows the Pelamis to capture more energy while substantially reducing the cost per MW.
- Comprising of five tubes and therefore four joints, the P2 has an extra tube section and an extra power module.
- Improved power take off system for the P2 allows higher efficiencies, enhanced control resolution and increased reliability.
- The joint angle envelope has been increased allowing larger joint movement to significantly increase power absorption across sea states.
- Rather than the separate sections of the P1, power modules are now integrated into the main tube sections. A universal joint allowing two-degrees of freedom replaces the single degree hinged joints. These changes reduce the number of costly end-cap fabrications in the machine.
- The tube connection process has been simplified and de-risked for the P2, expanding structural and mechanical supply chain options.
Supply and commissioning of the world’s first multiple machine wave farm
Following the successful testing of the full scale prototype machine, an order was secured for three full scale Pelamis machines from Portuguese electricity utility Enersis. Officially opened in September 2008, the Aguçadoura Wave Farm was located off the northwest coast of Portugal and had a total installed capacity of 2.25MW.
Securing the UK’s first commercial orders for wave energy converters from utility customers E.ON and ScottishPower Renewables
In February 2009, E.ON placed an order for the first of a next generation Pelamis machine, the P2. E.ON were presented with the 'Best Project' award at the 2011 Scottish Green Energy Awards in recognition of this visionary step as the first utility company to order and order and operate a wave energy converter for installation in the UK.
The second Pelamis P2 machine to be sold to a utility customer was announced in March 2010, when Pelamis secured an order from ScottishPower Renewables, part of Iberdrola Renewables.
We're proud to be working with these major UK utilities E.ON and ScottishPower Renewables on the testing of two P2 Pelamis machines in Orkney. The two utilities will be testing their machines in tandem as part of a unique cross-industry collaboration project. Information gathered from the trials will be used to support the development of larger commercial-scale projects currently under development by both ScottishPower Renewables and E.ON off the coast of Orkney.
An unrivalled pipeline of commercial projects, including customer led developments for Crown Estate leased sites
Wave farms with a total installed capacity of 170MW are actively under development in Scottish waters, including customer, joint venture and Pelamis led projects. These sites have all been granted Crown Estate Agreements for Lease, demonstrating the commitment of Pelamis and our customers and partners to making these commercial-scale wave farms a reality within this decade.
As one of the first-movers in wave energy, Pelamis is at a mature stage of development and is on the cusp of making commercial wave farms a reality. Wave energy technology has the potential to supply a significant proportion of the world’s current global energy consumption, and our vision for the future looks well beyond the UK’s waters.