Lancaster University: New £1million Lancaster-led research to take us closer to harnessing the energy of waves

A new research project will develop cutting-edge technologies that will advance efforts towards capturing the huge renewable power of the oceans.

Led by Professor George Aggidis, and involving researchers from Lancaster University’s Department of Engineering and the Energy and Environment Institute, University of Hull, the £1million NHP-WEC (Novel High Performance Wave Energy Converters) project is being funded with £798,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as well as partner university contributions.

The research team will advance ‘wave energy conversion’ (WEC) technologies by developing the critical control and monitoring systems that will make wave energy machines more controllable and reliable. These will vastly improve their ability to capture energy and help ensure they can survive in extreme ocean environments.

The researchers will advance data-driven monitoring and novel control algorithms for a WEC concept developed at Lancaster University, called TALOS. Coupled with WEC development the team will further strengthen unique sea-state forecasting technology, SmartWave, developed by the University of Hull.

The two platforms will be integrated through the project; a step-change advance in system design and control where the TALOS WEC system can take advantage of, and react to, the high-resolution information of the seas, such as wave height and direction, that SmartWave will be able to provide.

Professor George Aggidis said: “The design, development, deployment and operation of wave energy converters, such as the TALOS wave energy converter concept developed here at Lancaster University, and their potential commercial use requires a holistic understanding of the marine environment. This research will advance our knowledge and understanding of these extreme marine environments where these machines will be deployed, as well as improve operators’ ability to control the machines when changes in conditions are forecast to improve their ability to generate electricity, and increase their ability to survive.”

Dr Robert Dorrell, University of Hull, said: “Wave energy convertors are an important future component of balanced energy solutions. SmartWave uses artificial intelligence and remote satellite monitoring for high-fidelity sea state condition predictions. Such predictions are critical to enable optimised design and control of wave energy convertors, maximising efficiency and durability.”

The project is one of eight wave-energy research projects supported by a £7.5 million investment by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

These projects will build on the UK’s leading role in marine wave energy to overcome challenges to devices that capture the energy generated by waves and convert it into a renewable source of electricity.

The wider deployment of Wave Energy Converters (WECs) is hampered by challenges such as their ability to survive in extreme weather conditions and their efficiency.

The projects announced today will adopt innovative new approaches to overcoming these challenges, including taking inspiration from the fins of marine animals to design flexible WECs that can operate under extreme conditions.

Other projects will test the performance of WECs through ocean-based trials and develop the models needed to assess how they cope with conditions such as storm waves.

Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Our coastline and the power of the seas around us offers huge potential for clean renewable energy that can help us meet commitments to end our contribution to climate change by 2050.

“There are certainly unique challenges in harnessing the power of the marine environment and it is exciting to see how these projects can help us make the most of our natural resources in a cleaner greener future.”

EPSRC Executive Chair, Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, said: “As a source of renewable power, marine wave energy would complement existing wind and solar technologies and help to provide a balanced supply.

“By overcoming challenges to effective marine wave energy technologies, the projects will help to unlock a valuable source of renewable energy and help the UK to achieve its Net Zero goal.”

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