Alstom and SSE announce plan for "world's largest" wave farm

French engineering giant Alstom has today announced that it has signed a major new joint venture agreement with SSE Renewables. This will see the two companies work together on the deployment of the world’s largest wave energy project off the coast of Orkney.

The companies said they will now work together to obtain the necessary permits for the Costa Head site as part of the Crown Estate’s programme to deploy marine energy projects in the designated Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Strategic Area. Financial details of the joint venture and the project were not disclosed.

The companies also confirmed plans to deploy wave energy convertors developed by AWS Ocean Energy Ltd, a marine energy specialist in which Alstom acquired a 40 per cent equity stake last summer.

The AWS-III convertors, which are scheduled to undergo component testing this year before the deployment of a full-scale prototype at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney in 2014, are expected to deliver 2.5MW of capacity.

The new joint venture plans to install four converters during the first phase of the project, delivering 10MW of capacity, before installing a series of arrays capable of providing 200MW of capacity.

The converters use floating “cells”, featuring flexible membrane absorbers that convert wave energy into pneumatic power that can then be used to drive turbines. According to AWS, arrays of these cells provide an effective means of generating utility-scale wave power while having a limited impact on the local environment.

Jérôme Pécresse, president of Alstom Renewable Power, hailed the new joint venture as a major milestone for the marine energy industry.

“We are delighted to announce our agreement with SSE Renewables, one of the leading developer of marine energy in the world, to develop Costa Head, which is the largest wave energy site being developed today in the world,” he said.

“This project places Alstom at the forefront of the fast-developing ocean energy sector along with our offshore wind and tidal energy businesses. It demonstrates the strength of our offer as a leading supplier of clean energy solutions and of our involvement in all renewable energy sources in Scotland, the potential of which is considerable.”

In related news, tidal current technology developer Marine Current Turbines (MCT) today released an independent report demonstrating that its flagship SeaGen generator, located in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough, has had no major impact on marine life.

The report, undertaken by environmental consultancy Royal Haskoning and featuring contributions from independent scientists and conservationists, concluded no major impacts on the local environment have been detected following a six-year monitoring programme that straddled the installation of the SeaGen device.

It also found that there have been “no changes in abundance of either seals or porpoises detected which can be attributed to SeaGen”, adding that the “only changes observed after three years of operation of SeaGen have been relatively small-scale changes in the behaviour and distribution of seals and harbour porpoises, which suggests a minor degree of local avoidance of SeaGen”.

Frank Fortune, technical director at Royal Haskoning, said: “The findings of the Environmental Monitoring Programme give us confidence that SeaGen will be able to continue to operate with no likely significant impacts on the marine environment of Strangford Lough.”

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