North Wales partnerships driving forward marine energy sector


At a time when the sustainability of the world has came into the focus, Wales and Anglesey in particular, are showing a large potential with well-developed marine energy partnerships and projects in the pipeline gearing up to generate clean, low carbon electricity.

Over recent weeks, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the world changing around us, we’ve seen clear skies and waters in some of world’s most polluted cities and wildlife returning to habitats that had become uninhabitable. There’s never been more evidence that sustainable energy is not just ‘nice to have’, it’s a necessity.

The north west coast of Anglesey has long been identified for its powerful tidal resource. In this respect, the area was designated by the Crown Estate in 2013 as a marine energy ‘Demonstration Zone’. The zone is one of several around the United Kingdom which have been allocated by the Crown Estate in a bid to encourage and accelerate the development of marine energy.

Each of the zones have been identified for their wave and tidal energy potential as well as access to appropriate infrastructure. The Anglesey zone was selected for its strong tidal resource, its grid connection, and its proximity to the port of Holyhead.

The designation has been the catalyst for several projects and initiatives – putting the region firmly on the map in terms of tidal energy, as well as reinforcing Anglesey’s well established ‘Energy Island’ vision.

Having secured the lease for the Crown Estate Demonstration Zone, local social enterprise, Menter Môn established ‘Morlais’ to manage the development and to secure maximum local benefit. Through Morlais, Menter Môn will sub-let areas within the zone to developers of tidal stream technology.  Subject to receiving Welsh Government consent, the project has the potential to scale up over time to a 240MW generating capacity. Ten UK and international developers of tidal devices have already signed up and are ready to deploy their technology on a commercial scale at the zone.

A few miles up the coast, Swedish firm Minesto is developing its first utility-scale tidal project – which is the first low-velocity tidal energy project in the world. With its UK head office at Holyhead, Minesto has already started to deploy its Deep Green technology at the site. Following successful deployment and testing the aim is to install further devices and gradually expand the site to a commercial demonstration array of up to 10MW installed capacity.

Minesto and Morlais are collaborating to develop grid and cable infrastructure for the proposed developments to reduce costs and minimise the environmental footprint.

To ensure projects such as these reach their full potential and deliver real benefits for the area, both require a supply chain and network of supporting industries and facilities.

M-SParc, located in Gaerwen in the centre of Anglesey, is playing a key role in this by coordinating and promoting the growth of the sector locally. A Bangor University company, M-SParc has provided a home to businesses engaged with the marine energy industry since it first opened its doors in March 2018. Two years on, it has become a hub for the sector; hosting events to showcase supply opportunities, providing business support as well as state of the art facilities and space for businesses to grow.

In partnership with Menter Môn and ‘Selkie’, the Wales-Ireland INTERREG funded marine energy consortium, M-SParc hosted the recent ‘A Sea of Opportunities’ supply chain event, attracting over 100 local and international delegates. The aim was to introduce potential suppliers and contractors to the marine energy sector, as well as gauge the level of interest from local companies. Speakers from Morlais, The Isle of Anglesey County Council, tidal turbine developers and local companies who already benefit from the sector addresses delegates, sharing their experiences and learning.

Developing a supply chain with the skills and capacity to service the tidal energy sector in general is critical to ensuring that Wales is best placed to take advantage of this emerging industry. The event on Anglesey highlighted those opportunities and raised awareness for the sector in general.

Companies based at M-SParc already involved in marine energy span a wide range of competences and expertise. Amongst them is Animated Technologies who provide marketing solutions in the form of explainer videos. Having recently expanded into augmented reality, they have created a software package which allows the visualization of problems relating to underwater cabling. A leap forward for the company itself, but also potentially a significant step for the sector as a whole, reducing the need for expensive investigative underwater work when things go wrong.

Others include Papertrail specializing in documenting health and safety compliance and accountability for the marine industry; Pennant Flower Surveyor which works with offshore energy developments, and renewable energy start-up Trydan Môn.

With this and expertise on the doorstep at Bangor University Marine Sciences department and SEACAMS centre – Anglesey and north Wales have the right ingredients and ambition to innovate and become at the fore of the marine energy sector.

Anela Dokso

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