Stornoway conference highlights potential of marine renewable energy
Over 220 delegates are attending an international conference on marine renewable energy technologies in Stornoway this week. The Environmental Interactions of Marine Renewables conference and workshops take place at An Lanntair and other venues from Monday 28 April to Friday 2 May. Organised by Lews Castle College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, the event is a forum for experts to present their latest findings on the impact of marine renewable devices on the environment.
Part of the conference activities will showcase the findings of the Hebridean Marine Energy Futures project. Led by experts at Lews Castle College UHI, the three year initiative, funded by the Scottish Funding Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), aimed to help unlock the energy potential of the oceans around the Western Isles. Researchers used state-of-the-art equipment to gather data on wave energy and possible development sites. Recording waves of up to 24 meters, they discovered the waters have more potential than first thought, with the ability to generate as much energy as dozens of nuclear power stations. The data was also used to develop the first high-resolution wave model of the Outer Hebrides, which has been made freely available to wave energy device developers.
Arne Vögler, a senior research engineer at Lews Castle College UHI, organised the conference and was also the principal investigator for the Hebridean Marine Energy Futures project. He said: “I always thought the Atlantic coast of Scotland had great potential for wave energy and the Heb Marine project confirms this. Development could start now, even with existing grid connections, we could draw power from a pilot array of five to seven machines and some further modifications of the existing power transmission system (without major new infrastructure investment) would allow up to 60Mw to be accommodated, more than the existing power generating capacity in the Isle of Lewis.”
The conference also sees the launch of another major renewables project. Supported by £3.3 million of EU and HIE funding, Marine Energy Research Innovation and Knowledge Accelerator (MERIKA) is a three-year initiative which aims to develop a European Marine Energy Research and Innovation Hub at the University of the Highlands and Islands. The project will build on the expertise already available in the university partnership at the Scottish Association of Marine Science UHI near Oban, Lews Castle College UHI in Stornoway and North Highland College UHI’s Environmental Research Institute in Thurso. It will provide investment in the equipment, personnel and infrastructure hosted at each of these sites and will develop a research exchange programme with seven European institutions to help the university remain at the cutting edge of marine renewable research.
Jacqueline McGuigan, senior development manager at HIE, said: “MERIKA will improve and consolidate the energy marine research profile and international position of the University of the Highlands and Islands. The project will create high value jobs and research across the Highlands and Islands and has the potential to further develop our region’s international portfolio of marine research activity.”