A unique wave testing tank in Edinburgh is creating ripples in the renewable energy community. Jim Drury reports.
This Edinburgh pool is creating waves in the renewable energy community.....literally. FloWave is a unique wave replication facility. It allows cut-price testing of scale models of offshore energy devices in extreme conditions. SOUNDBITE (English) STUART BROWN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF FLOWAVE, SAYING: "It's a 25 metre diameter, circular, test tank ringed with wave makers all the way round the outside and with these wave makers we can make waves in any direction, any time, any frequency, amplitude in the tank replicating the ocean. But we can also push the water in the tank around using a current generation system and that enables us to replicate both current and waves in a very complex way that accurately represents the ocean." Most wave tanks are rectangular and involve pushing waves down the tank in one direction. SOUNDBITE (English) STUART BROWN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF FLOWAVE, SAYING: "Because the test tank here is circular we can put wave makers in any direction, including in two directions at once." Testing full-scale machine models at sea can cost millions, and is far from foolproof. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR DAVID INGRAM, OF UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH, SAYING: "In a test tank like this you get the bad wave conditions, you get storms, when you want them. If you don't want them they don't happen. If you take your machine out to sea and you want to test it under storm conditions you might have to wait 20 years for the bad storm that you wanted." The two-metre deep tank can simulate scale equivalents of 28 metre high waves and currents of 14 knots. Among machines tested here are multi-platform protyotypes that harness wave, wind and tidal power to generate renewable energy. Such energy could power attachable mobile fish farms or help desalinate water. FloWave staff say such devices will become increasingly common as their cost goes down. By slashing testing costs they say they'll help companies make a big splash in the renewable energy market.