|14 December 2015|

An innovative subsea pod employed by Orkney’s European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) could reduce costs for tidal energy projects.

The Integrated Monitoring Pod has been transmitting real-time date feeds from the seabed at the Fall of Warness tidal energy test site in Orkney, Scotland.

And EMEC has now successfully recovered the pod, which is the first of its type. Connected to the shore by a subsea cable, it enables round the clock collection of data and feeds back to EMEC for use by marine energy developers using the site.

The Scottish government provides funding for the ongoing project via the Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), which is managed by the Carbon Trust.

Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “I am delighted that our £2.8 million innovation support programme, part of the Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund, is funding EMEC’s integrated monitoring system. This has been successfully deployed at the Fall of Warness test site and highlights the role that such enabling technologies will play in the success of the first wave and tidal arrays.”

Angus Vantoch-Wood, programme manager of the MRCF at the Carbon Trust commented: “The Carbon Trust is very pleased to be managing this innovative project and its ongoing delivery on behalf of the Scottish Government. It is really exciting to see EMEC’s novel Monitoring Pod solution being deployed and look forward to seeing the results, which we strongly believe will help to reduce the cost of early array deployments for both wave and tidal technologies.”

Designed by EMEC to function in high velocity tidal flows, it has a number of sensors capable of taking comprehensive concurrent environmental measurements, providing improved characterisation of high energy marine environments.

The real-time date feeds can be accessed by developers to help in device design and gathering more accurate information on device performance, and to support operations and maintenance planning.

“It was an incredibly exciting moment when we saw the first live data feeds coming through from the Pod” said Neil Kermode, EMEC’s managing director.

“Credit goes to the team here at EMEC as well as Leask Marine, Bryan J Rendall (Electrical), RM Computing, Numerical Business and J+S.  The Pod was deployed in a highly volatile tidal environment, and we’re glad to have such a competent local supply chain with the combined experience, ingenuity and seamanship to make a tricky project like this run relatively smoothly. Having worked with these companies on many projects throughout the years makes the job a lot easier to manage.”

“There have been huge learning curves with this project as we’re operating in largely unchartered territory (even within the tidal energy industry), and we’ve learnt, and continue to learn, a great deal which will help support future developments of the Pod as well as other marine operations.”

“For example, we’ve found certain materials – connectors for instance – designed for offshore subsea operations are not necessarily suited to cope with the highly oxygenated and turbulent near-shore environment we are working in.”

The pod is set up as a plug-and-play prototype with the ability to install additional sensors as required, with future development focused on supporting data collection at commercial marine energy array projects.

Mr Kermode added: “We’re keen to collaborate with the industry – particularly developers of sensors and those planning marine energy arrays – to drive the development of this Pod further and ensure that it fits the needs of all end users”.

EMEC is now analysing the data that has been gathered by the Pod, and will provide further results from the project in early 2016.