Replicating Orkney’s seas in marine energy test tank
The project, a collaboration between the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney and FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility at the University of Edinburgh, began in 2012 with the aim of substantially improving the accuracy of replicating open ocean conditions at tank scale.
FloWave is a 25-metre circular test tank and is the only facility in the world with the capability to generate complex waves and fast tidal currents from any point of the compass.
After three years of work by Sam Draycott – a dedicated research engineer working at FloWave – and the support of the highly experienced team at EMEC, FloWave can now accurately replicate individual project site locations to a level of sophistication and complexity not possible anywhere else in the world.
Making full use of both the 10-year-plus data-set from EMEC’s Billia Croo offshore test site and the multi-directional wave and current capability of the FloWave test tank, the new technique has already been trialled and tested by engineering consultants Quoceant. The company has significant experience in testing in real wave climates, and at Billia Croo in particular.
Founding director of Quoceant, Richard Yemm, said: “From our experience testing real machines at EMEC, we know first-hand that most test tanks just cannot produce sea conditions like those found in an open ocean site.
“The circular tank now operating at FloWave allows much better emulation of real conditions and it was exciting to test in storm waves that actually occurred on the EMEC site. This capability goes a long, long way to closing the gap between laboratory tank testing and the real world."
The ground-breaking project began when Neil Kermode, managing director of EMEC,and Stuart Brown, chief executive officer of the FloWave, were discussing the significant learning gap and other difficulties that companies were experiencing in stepping out of test tanks and into the real sea.
At that time the FloWave facility was nearing completion of its build phase. Both facility directors saw the opportunity to use the unique capability of the test tank to help developers prepare for real-sea deployments by testing in scale conditions as close to realistic as technically possible.
Neil Kermode said: “FloWave has done a great job at integrating our data into their test tank, and I’m delighted to hear that Quoceant has been able to trial this.
“The open ocean is an expensive place for developers to learn hard lessons, so realising the conditions experienced at EMEC in a tank should help iron out some issues before they come to deploy at sea.
“Having established the tools and process with EMEC’s Billia Croo as a first example, FloWave now has the capability to work with appropriate data-sets from other project site locations around the world.”
Stuart Brown added: “The biggest challenge for any developer is really understanding the likely behaviour of a device or project in a specific location, and this includes survivability challenges as well as efficient performance in more normal operating conditions.
“This brings enormous benefit for developers in terms of anticipation of, and preparation for, the challenging complexities of deployment the real marine environment, and I am really proud of Sam and the team at FloWave for achieving this major step-change in test tank capability.”
EMEC and FloWave are the most advanced test facilities of their kind in the world. Through this and other collaborative projects they are making each centre’s offering even more compelling – and together they ensure the UK and Scotland remains the world’s foremost destination for ocean energy research, testing and demonstration.