EU-funded Initiative Set to Boost Marine Renewables with EUR 9 Million (Ireland)
A new EU-funded initiative is set to give the marine renewable energy sector a boost worth EUR 9 million. The MARINET (‘Marine renewables infrastructure network’) initiative will give companies access to test facilities in specialist marine renewable energy centres across Europe.
Led by researchers at the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) at University College Cork in Ireland, the project, funded as part of the ‘Infrastructures’ Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), will allow companies to carry out renewable energy testing at these centres at no extra cost.
The MARINET project, which launches its call for proposals this month and will run until 2015, will help remove some of the financial barriers that sometimes stand in the way of access to world-class European testing facilities. Under MARINET, companies and research groups will have access to facilities outside their own country. Testing will focus on checking concepts and devices in areas such as wave energy, tidal energy, offshore-wind energy and the environment. It is hoped that this project will play a part in accelerating widespread development of marine renewable energy.
Offshore renewable conversion systems are mostly at the pre-commercial stage of development. They comprise wave energy and tidal stream converters as well as offshore wind turbines for electrical generation. These devices require research to be undertaken at a series of scales along the path to commercialisation.
Each technology type is currently at a different stage of development, but each one also needs specific research infrastructures to facilitate and catalyse commercialisation. The aim of this project is to coordinate research and development at all scales (from small models through to prototype scales, from laboratory through to open sea tests), and to allow access for researchers and developers to facilities that are not universally available in Europe.
The MARINET network is made up of 42 testing facilities at 28 research centres in 11 European countries as well as in Brazil. By linking these marine renewable-energy testing facilities and using an agreed testing framework, this initiative now provides a clear path to commercialisation: it allows allowing users to seamlessly progress their device through each phase of testing. All participating centres will use common standards, conduct research to improve their own testing capability and provide training to enhance expertise in the field.
This focus on commercialisation is in line with the Commission’s objective to speed up the rate of research outcomes reaching the marketplace.
Over the course of the project, at least four calls for applications will be made. Potential users, who must work in an EU Member State or an associated Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) country, can now apply to access the facilities as part of this first call.
The Irish facilities, for example, will be based at HMRC, part of the new Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC) which was launched recently by the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. There will be wave tank and electrical testing facilities located in Cork, and through the Galway Bay and Belmullet energy test sites of the Ocean Energy Development Unit (OEDU) of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), County Mayo will form part of the facilities on offer too.
Professor Tony Lewis from the HMRC warns companies not to miss out on this opportunity, and urges them to apply for the funding to access these facilities.
‘MARINET offers a unique opportunity to access these world-class European test facilities in order to validate and progress concepts at any stage of development, and to ultimately harness the untapped renewable energy resources that are abundant around the European coastline. This is a great opportunity to advance marine renewable research testing and commercial development.’
The other countries participating in the project are Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Offshore WIND staff, December 12, 2011; Image: ucc