UK universities team up for wave energy project

13 February 2023

Newcastle University and the University of Edinburgh are collaborating on a project to demonstrate the advantages of using electric power technologies in wave energy converters.

The MU-EDRIVE project is part of eight projects funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), to build on the UK’s leading role in marine wave energy.

Led by Newcastle University’s Dr Nick Baker, MU-EDRIVE is a collaboration between Dr Serkan Turkman and Professor Jeff Neasham at Newcastle University and Professor Markus Mueller at the University of Edinburgh.

Compared to electrical machines in other industrial sectors, Wave energy convertors (WECs) are relatively slow running. The team is now working to develop all electric drivetrain technologies – which are efficient and mechanically simple – to power WECs, and demonstrate that they can perform efficiently at full-scale in harsh underwater conditions.

The Edinburgh team, led by Professor Mueller, will design, build and test a magnetic gear in partnership with Edinburgh-based wave energy developer Mocean Energy to demonstrate upscaling of electrical power take off systems.

The team will then install a generator and power converter using the new system to a buoy mounted 3km off the Northumberland coast at Blyth in spring 2024 for a 12-month period.

Once installed, the prototype WEC will provide vital operational data while testing the newest corrosion and anti-fouling technologies – which prevent sea organisms such as algae sticking to the device and potentially interfering with its operation.

The project will progress understanding of the robustness of wave energy convertors in harsh underwater conditions, while showing how magnetic gearing technology can be scaled up to larger power levels and integrated more fully into wave energy converters.

“With regards to achieving the ambitious goal of net zero by 2050, it is essential to look at the energy system as a whole. Wave energy originates from solar energy as the sun heats the land, the land heats the air to create wind and wind creates waves. Wave energy can therefore be considered as ‘energy dense’ and could be a significant factor in moving away from traditional energy sources,” said Dr Nick Baker, Reader in Emerging Electrical Machines and Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University. "The upscaling aim of the MU-EDRIVE project will help to reduce costs of energy production as devices get larger, making the energy both easier and more affordable for access and usage. It's hard to know what a wave energy device will look like in 10 years' time. Thinking back to 10 years ago, offshore wind turbine technologies were in their infancy - this could be the same for wave energy now.”

Recent government recognition has led to a surge in skills and advanced technology across the Power Electronics Machines and Drives (PEMD) sectors, and the natural pathway is to apply these skills to the marine energy sector.

This cross-sector collaboration in PEMD is supported by Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres (DER-IC), a UK-wide network in which the University of Edinburgh and Newcastle University are partners. DER-IC aims to support the growth of the PEMD supply chain in the UK, by providing access to world-class design, manufacturing, test and validation capability across 30 Universities and Research and Technology Organisations.

These new facilities will be used to scale up the MU-EDRIVE project and streamline its manufacturing processes.

The MU-EDRIVE team meeting in Newcastle University’s Electrical Power Laboratory. From left to right Dr Ramin Korbekandi, Dr Chang Li, Himayat Jan (PhD student, Edinburgh), Lewis Chambers (PhD student, Newcastle), Professor Markus Mueller (Edinburgh); Professor Jeff Neasham; Dr Nick Baker


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