Ocean power

Solar and wind power are established sources of clean electricity. But can we harness wave power as well? An exciting project off the Scottish coast aims to find out, with Trelleborg’s help.

The ability of the tides and waves to drive power generation is vast. According to USGS, water covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, and oceans make up 96.5 percent of that. It means that the endless power of the sea’s waves can play an even more significant role than they already do.


Over the past few decades, the extreme weather and sea conditions around Orkney Islands off the north of Scotland, have resulted in it serving hotspot for developing and testing wave and tidal power technology. Located between the Atlantic and the North Sea, the Orkney Islands is also home to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).


The latest and perhaps most promising example of wave power is from Inverness-based company AWS Ocean Energy. Working with marine energy systems for over 20 years now, AWS is currently testing the Archimedes Waveswing; 10-meter tall, 3.8-meter-wide submerged wave power buoy designed to generate reliable and affordable power for maritime communities and offshore applications.


The Waveswing sits three meters under the surface of the sea and reacts to changes in subsea water pressure caused by passing waves. It then converts the motion in the structure to electricity via a direct-drive generator. The system can be deployed in depths of 25 meters or more. 


“With its current design, the Waveswing can integrate into submerged platforms and scale up to 500 kW per unit. A platform hosting 20 units can therefore achieve power outputs comparable to offshore wind installations”, says Simon Grey, CEO of AWS Ocean Energy.


Trelleborg’s innovative technology plays an integral role in this project. It supplies a bespoke rubber membrane that helps protect and seal a part of the Waveswing developed at the company’s facility in Ridderkerk, Netherlands. 


“The membrane is a cordreinforced rubber construction that absorbs the forces from internal pressure and also helps prevent seawater from getting into Waveswing’s generators,” explains Dirk Jan van Waardhuizen, Manager for Research and Development at Trelleborg. 


Trelleborg also provided similar industry-leading polymer solutions, to the European Union-funded WETFEET project (Wave Energy Transition to Future by Evolution of Engineering and Technology) from 2015 to 2018. And as far back as the mid-1990s, it worked with Dutchbased Teamwork Technology, the early originator of the project that evolved into AWS. 


“At the end of the WETFEET project, AWS expressed its interest in using our polymer membrane solution for its new Orkney test project,” says van Waardhuizen. “It was a delight to work closely on a project of this scale and offer our expertise again. I’m looking forward to visiting Orkney in the future and seeing the new device in action.” 


“We are really pleased to have found in Trelleborg such an experienced and reliable partner for the development of this critical component in Waveswing,” says Grey. “Its practical approach to solving issues and ensuring delivery of a quality product has helped the success of our project. We look forward to working with Trelleborg to explore how to increase the scale of the membranes to allow us to capture the full potential of Waveswing technology.”


“Our extensive design and engineering capabilities enable us to be the trusted partner for our customers, delivering solutions that meet their specific needs,” says van
Waardhuizen. “In fact, the largest Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), part of the European Southern Observatory currently under construction, will utilize Trelleborg’s advanced sealing systems.” 


Trelleborg will manufacture and supply handmade inflatable and compression seals that will keep the ELT’s classic dome-shaped enclosure pressurized and airtight, protecting it from water, heat, and dust, while ensuring there is no UV exposure within the enclosure.


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Marine & Infrastructure

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