Swansea-based collaboration leads to wave energy innovation

The EU-backed ASTUTE 2020 (Advanced Sustainable Manufacturing Technologies) operation led by Swansea University in partnership with Cardiff and Aberystwyth universities and University of Wales Trinity Saint David has collaborated with Swansea-based Marine Power Systems (MPS) to support the development of a Wave Energy Converter to address the challenge of extracting wave energy at a viable cost.

Marine power systems 1ERDF Research and Innovation-funded ASTUTE 2020 together with £2.5M of ERDF (Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency) and £200k of energy catalyst funding from Innovate UK for the modelling, design, build, test and validation has enabled MPS to progress their device from concept to prototype.

The new ‘WaveSub’ - as it is named, was showcased this month at an event hosted by MPS and attended by Mark Drakeford AM.

The WaveSub consists of a power-capturing float which is tied by multiple flexible lines to a large barge-like reactor.  The lines are connected to a hydraulic power take-off system which is used to capture energy from the movement between the float and the reactor, which is then converted to electricity.

Marine power systems 3ASTUTE2020 worked on the computational research element of the new float structure in assessing the suitability of its components. ASTUTE 2020 also supported MPS in performing computational modelling and performed finite element analysis of the float structure when it was immersed in sea water.

Dr Gareth Stockman, Chief Executive Officer at MPS said: “We are reaching some exciting milestones in the development of our technology, specifically the deployment of a quarter-scale prototype WaveSub. We are thrilled to be liaising with ASTUTE 2020 for advanced computational modelling of the float. 

With the prestigious skills and facilities available from ASTUTE 2020 at the new Swansea University Bay Campus, as well as its philosophy of innovation and advancement, we have full assurance that the research being produced by ASTUTE 2020 will confirm that our design for a power take-off float is fully fit for purpose.”

As a result of the collaboration with ASTUTE 2020 on the WaveSub, MPS were declared the winners of the Research and Development award at the Insider’s Business and Education Partnership awards last year, with judges impressed by the local collaboration between academia and industry along with the potential global impact of the Wave Energy Converter.

Dr Fawzi Belblidia, Senior Technical Manager at ASTUTE 2020, said: “The device that Marine Power Systems is developing is incredibly innovative and we are very supportive of the company’s work. Being brought in to engage with the MPS team and collaborate on finite element simulations of the composite float is an exciting project and we look forward to working with MPS until the float is ready for manufacture and deployment.”

 The impact of WaveSub

  • The WaveSub development is an excellent example of how different funding streams can converge to create a successful, collaborative project: ERDF Research and Innovation-funded ASTUTE 2020 together with £2.5M of ERDF (Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency) and £200k of energy catalyst funding from Innovate UK for the modelling, design, build, test and validation has enabled MPS to progress their device from concept to prototype.
  • MPS have now completed a 1:4 scale WaveSub to be tested under laboratory conditions and later under sea conditions. This is an important step in the journey towards commercialisation of the Wave Energy Converter.
  • The WaveSub technology being developed by MPS has huge potential to contribute to energy security targets (wave power generating 10% of the world's electricity by 2050) and could reduce reliance on unpredictable and non-renewable energy sources.
  • With the continuing developments at MPS and across the wave energy sector, MPS have expanded their workforce by recruiting additional engineering expertise, assisting with further developments of the WaveSub.

 Marine power systems 2

ASTUTE 2020 can support manufacturing companies across a variety of sectors, such as aerospace, automotive, energy generation, oil and gas, medical devices, electronics, foods, etc., stimulating growth by applying advanced engineering technologies to manufacturing challenges driving cutting-edge research and innovation. The five-year operation (2015-2020) is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and the participating Higher Education Institutions.

Pictured (top): Wave Energy Converter (WaveSub) model being towed to site)

ASTUTE 2020