New climate change minister Amber Rudd MP found out first-hand about the UK’s leading role in ocean energy research and development when she officially opened the world’s most sophisticated tide and wave simulator in Edinburgh August 5.

The FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility, located at Edinburgh University’s King’s Buildings campus, is a 25 metre circular pool which can recreate waves and currents from coastlines around the UK, Europe and beyond.

Minister Amber Rudd, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Climate Change, officially opened the facility and watched as the tank was put through its paces.

Speaking at the opening, Minister Rudd said: “Wave and tidal energy has an important part to play in our low carbon energy mix and the UK is already at the forefront of research and development in this innovative sector.

“It’s great to officially open and see first-hand FloWave’s new cutting-edge marine energy testing facility at the University of Edinburgh. Testing devices in realistic ocean conditions is essential for driving this industry forward to commercial success.”

The £10.5 million FloWave facility, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the University of Edinburgh and Scottish Enterprise can simulate scale equivalents of waves up to 28 metres high and currents of up to 14 knots in the two metre deep tank, using 2.4 million litres of water.

Welcoming the Minister, FloWave Chief Executive Officer Stuart Brown said: “FloWave is unique in that it can recreate real sea conditions combining waves and tides for almost any location or sea state in the world. Its circular design means waves have no reflections and both waves and currents can come from multiple directions, to accurately mimic the real ocean environment. This means researchers and industrial partners can use the facility to develop and refine prototype devices before building and testing them full-scale for deployment in near-identical conditions at sea.

“We believe FloWave will help accelerate learning, improve performance and reduce costs for developers, and we expect FloWave will be used to test wave and tidal energy converters, floating offshore wind platforms, and specialist vessels to install and maintain offshore projects,” Brown says.

At present the UK wave and tidal power industry is evolving from single devices to arrays of multiple units – and FloWave has the capacity to test these too. The 25 metre tank enables testing at 1/20th scale, crucially filling the gap between small laboratory units and full-scale marine facilities such as the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. The FloWave tank can generate currents up to 1.6 metres per second, regular waves up to one 700mm high, and ‘freak’ waves considerably larger than that. Scaling up, this allows it to simulate waves up to 28 metres high and currents of up to 14 knots; and unlike any other tank in the world, it can do all of this in combination and in any relative direction.

"With proper programming the FloWave tank can be made to accurately replicate at scale any point on the UK continental shelf, and almost all of the existing and planned wave and tidal generation sites around the world. If EMEC is the lab in the ocean, then FloWave is the ocean in the lab," Brown concluded.

FloWave
The FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility is the world’s most sophisticated ocean simulator. The first of its kind in the world, the circular FloWave test tank combines complex wide-area multidirectional wave simulation with fast tidal flows. www.flowavett.co.uk

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