An ambitious collaborative project to power subsea equipment with wave power and subsea energy storage has taken to the seas off the north of Scotland.
Renewables for Subsea Power (RSP) is a £2 million demonstrator project, integrating sub-sea batteries and a remote submarine. RSP connects the 20 metre, 38 tonne Blue X wave energy converter built by Edinburgh company Mocean Energy with a Halo underwater battery developed by Aberdeen energy management specialists Verlume.
The two technologies have been deployed off Orkney in a four-month pilot, providing low carbon power and communication to infrastructure including Baker Hughes’ subsea controls equipment and a resident underwater robot vehicle provided by Transmark Subsea.
The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has supplied kit to measure speed and direction of currents during the deployment. Wave Energy Scotland gave £160,000 to support the integration of the umbilical cord into the wave energy converter.
The RSP pilot project aims to show how green technologies can combine to provide reliable low carbon power and communications under the waves. Proponents hope setups such as the RSP will deliver cost-effective alternatives to umbilical cables, which are carbon intensive with long lead times to make and install.
Deployment off Orkney is the third phase of the RSP project. Consortium partners supporting it include Harbour Energy and Serica Energy. Each phase of the programme has also been supported by grant funding from the Hollyrood- and Westminster-supported Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC), formerly known as the Oil and Gas Technology Centre.
In 2021 the consortium invested £1.6 million into phase two of the programme – which saw the successful integration of the core technologies in an onshore commissioning test environment at Verlume’s plant in Aberdeen.
The entire system is now undergoing sea trials 5 km east of the Orkney mainland. The system’s technology readiness level is elevated to levels six to seven, in other words, system completion and qualification via testing.
Two years ago Mocean Energy’s Blue X prototype underwent sea tests at European Marine Energy Centre’s test site at Scapa Flow. It generated its first power and provided valuable operational data. The Blue X programme was also supported by Wave Energy Scotland, its £3.3 million fostering the venture’s development, construction and testing.
“This is a natural next step for our technology,” says Cameron McNatt, Mocean Energy’s managing director. “The new test site east of Deerness offers a much more vigorous wave climate and the opportunity to demonstrate the integration of a number of technologies in real sea conditions.”
Verlume’s seabed battery energy storage system, Halo, has been specifically designed for the harsh underwater environment, reducing operational emissions and facilitating the use of renewable energy by providing a reliable, uninterrupted power supply.
Halo’s core is its intelligent energy management system, Axonn, a fully integrated system which autonomously maximises available battery capacity in real time.
Andy Martin, chief commercial officer of ten-year old Aberdeen technologists Verlume, added: “This programme is the pinnacle of the success to date in this project.
“We are very much looking forward to the Halo being deployed”, said Martin, pictured. The testing will provide a great opportunity to gather high quality performance and operational data which will support the further electrification of the subsea sector.”