EMEC Profile

The drive towards a net zero carbon neutral future is at the heart of everything we do at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).

Based in Orkney, an archipelago off the north of Scotland, our islands are blessed with abundant renewable energy resources. On the odd days that the wind isn’t blowing, the waves are crashing against our shores, and tides flow from the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean every six hours – as predictable as clockwork.

EMEC was set up in 2003 to enable wave and tidal energy technologies – machines that harness the power of the sea – to test in the ocean. The resources in Orkney truly put these machines to the test with waves of over 18 meters - imagine standing next to a six-storey building - and a peak tidal flow of around 8 knots – that’s approximately half a billion tonnes of water passing through our tidal site an hour. The technologies testing with us not only have to survive these extreme conditions but generate power from.

EMEC is essentially a plug-and-play facility set up to reduce the cost, time and risk of testing offshore with pre-consented grid-connected sites. And to date, we have hosted more ocean energy technologies than any other site in the world.

One of the more recent demonstrations was by a local Orkney-based company, Orbital Marine Power. Their floating tidal turbine generated over 3 GWh of renewable electricity over the course of a year, producing around 7% of Orkney’s electricity needs. That’s one day a fortnight that Orkney was running on tidal electricity produced by just one prototype. Orbital are currently working on the next iteration of their turbine, due to be demonstrated at EMEC early 2021.

Ocean energy testing is what EMEC is best known for, however our operations have developed significantly through the years as we’ve found our infrastructure, skills and knowledge are in demand for progressing other low-carbon technologies as well.

We’ve found our skills are particularly transferrable to help progress the development of floating offshore wind. Our flagship project in this area is the AFLOWT (Accelerating market uptake of Floating Offshore Wind Technology) project, which has seen us set up a local office in Ireland.

As well as leading the project, EMEC is supporting the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to develop the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) near Belmullet, Co. Mayo, advising on health and safety systems and operating procedures. The project will demonstrate the survivability and cost-competitiveness of a floating offshore wind technology and support the development of an active supply chain in the region.

EMEC are also pioneering the development of a green hydrogen economy. When created using renewable power, hydrogen is a carbon neutral fuel as it does not emit carbon when burnt. We have set up an onshore hydrogen production plant next to our tidal energy substation in Orkney, and in 2017 we generated the world’s first tidal-powered hydrogen. This has led to us working on a range of pioneering hydrogen projects, from generating hydrogen using tidal energy, to decarbonising Orkney’s lifeline services, and we’ve even looked into hydrogen-powered gin.

We’re also involved in wider energy systems demonstration projects. Microsoft demonstrated a 450 kW subsea data centre at our wave test site from 2018 to 2020, proving the concept was feasible, as well as logistically, environmentally and economically practical. And EMEC is leading an exciting new project called ReFLEX Orkney looking to decarbonise the wider energy system. The project aims to integrate electricity, transport and heat systems in Orkney using clever software coupled with an increase of flexible demand assets like batteries and electric vehicles to help maximise Orkney’s renewable energy potential.

EMEC was set up to kick start an ocean energy sector in the UK and boost economic development in the Highlands and Islands, and while ocean energy is very much still at the heart of what we do, we are now using our infrastructure, skills and know-how to help the world decarbonise in other areas as well – and demonstrate the clean energy system of the future.

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