Marine renewable energy research at Bangor University

Background

One of the greatest potential sources of renewable energy conversion surrounds us – the ocean. Although the potential, including wave and tidal energy conversion and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), has been estimated at over 10 TW, there is currently less than 50 MW of installed ocean renewable energy capacity throughout the world. This is therefore one of the most exciting and innovative renewable energy sectors to be researched.

Research themes

Marine renewable energy research at Bangor University, whether blue skies research or collaborative R&D, has tended to focus on wave and tidal resource assessment and characterization, with the overarching objectives of:

  • Improved methods of resource characterization and ocean conditions
  • Cost reduction and resilience
  • Improved quality of electricity
  • Supporting the transition from prototype to commercialization
  • Improved access to electricity

Sources of funding

Structural funds

The involvement of Bangor University in funded marine renewable energy research began with two European structural funds projects that ran in parallel from 2010-2013: SEACAMS (working across all marine sectors), and particularly LCRI, specifically working on marine renewable energy. These projects were both based around R&D projects, working in collaboration with industry, and the SEACAMS project culminated in the creation of the Marine Centre Wales in Menai Bridge. SEACAMS evolved into a second funded project, SEACAMS2 (2014-2020), which focussed exclusively on marine renewable energy, again working in collaboration with industry. The most recent project SEEC (Smart Efficient Energy Centre), 2019-2023, will examine the role of marine renewable energy in future energy systems, linking other low carbon energy sectors through a common cyberinfrastructure hub. Unlike the previous three marine energy structural funds projects at Bangor University, SEEC is a centre of academic excellence that will focus on grant capture rather than specific collaboration with industry. Current Ireland/Wales funding at Bangor University includes the ECOSTRUCTURE project (2017-2020) that is investigating how offshore energy infrastructure can be designed to minimize environmental impacts. Structural funding has also supported several PhD students, including KESS (ESF) projects into tidal energy resource characterization that have attracted industry investment from, for example, Nortek and Repetitive Energy Ltd.

Research council funding

Bangor University have been involved in several EPSRC funded projects investigating marine renewable energy, including EP/J010200/1 (2012-2015) investigating the effects of realistic tidal flows on the performance and structural integrity of tidal stream turbines, and the most recent EPSRC energy fellowship EP/R034664/1 that is improving methods of characterizing resource, interactions, and conditions (METRIC). A pilot project (EP/R000611/1) also worked on the development of in situ methodologies to characterize turbulence at tidal energy sites.

Welsh Government and HEFCW

The NRN-LCEE (National Research Network for Low Carbon, Energy and Environment) ran from 2013-2019 and supported a marine renewable energy cluster, Quotient, which researched resource assessment & optimization, and environmental impacts of marine energy. Quotient led to the successful EPSRC energy fellowship (above), and resulted in some trans-disciplinary scientific findings; such as (1) the quality (thus potential value) of power from hydrokinetic turbines being high, (2) the influence of waves on the tidal resource, (3) directing the industry towards technologies to harvest less energetic deep water sites. Quotient was a very successful cluster which, for an initial investment of around £0.5M, returned ~£21M of research income to Wales, and resulted in over 20 peer-reviewed journal articles.

Other sources of funding

Other sources of funding have included a Fujistu/HPC Wales PhD studentship, simulating the interaction between tidal energy extraction and the environment.

International reputation

Staff at Bangor University have many international marine renewable energy roles. These include scientific roles in the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) in the Bay of Fundy (Canada), and the AUSTEn energy project in Australia. Bangor University is a partner in the PRIMaRE ocean renewable energy network, and staff have advisory roles in the Supergen ORE Hub. Staff have editorial roles on international journals such as Renewable Energy and JMSE, and have convened the marine renewable energy sessions at international conferences such as the AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting (2016, 2018, 2020) and the EGU General Assembly (2017, 2018, 2019). Staff have also published a textbook on marine renewable energy (including wave, tidal, offshore wind and ocean thermal energy conversion), Fundamentals of Ocean Renewable Energy: Generating Electricity from the Sea; and produced STEM outreach material. Bangor University also offers an MSc in marine renewable energy – one of only three MSc programmes in marine energy in the UK.