A world-leading test centre is expanding its workforce to meet demand from companies developing machines that harness energy from the sea.
EMEC, the Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre, is gearing up for the arrival this year of more devices capable of generating electricity from waves or tidal currents.
With two machines already undergoing sea trials at EMEC, five new staff are to be recruited to join the 13-strong team currently running the centre.
EMEC managing director Neil Kermode said: “These are exciting times for us, with our facilities playing such an important role at the cutting edge of marine power development.
“We'll see a number of very different technologies being tested in the waters around Orkney during 2010, clear evidence of rapid progress being made towards the commercial-scale harvesting of clean, sustainable energy from the seas around us.
“To keep up with demand, we need more staff – a great opportunity for people keen to play their part in building a new renewable energy industry of huge economic significance for Scotland.”
EMEC operates the world's first open-sea, grid-connected test facilities for prototype wave and tidal energy technologies.
Dublin-based OpenHydro is the first developer to deploy a tidal turbine at EMEC and continues to trial successive generations of its revolutionary technology in at the centre's tidal test site.
The company estimates that their overall spend in Orkney, since 2006, is approaching £5 million.
Building on that experience, OpenHydro has now successfully deployed a 400-tonne commercial turbine at the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.
“EMEC is recognised internationally as a centre of excellence for marine energy development,” said Chief Executive Officer James Ives.
“In bringing our turbine to the stage of commercial deployment, OpenHydro also relied on the knowledge and expertise of a large number of organisations, businesses and support services in Orkney.”
These range from divers and specialist engineers, to environmental consultancies, hotels and providers of vessels large and small.
“It's meant a substantial investment on our part and demonstrates the positive impact tidal energy is already having on communities like Orkney,” said Mr Ives.
Oyster, a wave energy converter developed by Edinburgh-based Aquamarine Power, is also generating electricity for the UK National Grid while undergoing a test programme at EMEC.
The company worked with more than 30 companies from Orkney and Caithness during the installation of the machine in Atlantic waters near Stromness – a total spend of more than £1 million.
Much of EMEC's own spending is already benefiting Orkney and the wider Scottish economy.
EMEC spent more than £800,000 within Orkney during 2007-8, the latest year for which figures are available, just under half of its total spending. Over £570,000 was spent elsewhere in Scotland during the same 12-month period.
”The experience and support we and the technology developers receive from a small army of local companies and organisations is vital in making marine renewables work,” added Neil Kermode.
“We're delighted to see those businesses and organisations – and the wider economy – benefiting from the presence of our unique test facilities.”
Ten of the current EMEC team were recruited from within Orkney. The centre is now seeking to fill three research posts, with two more staff needed to join the operations team looking after electrical and testing activities.
Elaine Hanton, head of the energy team at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) said 'HIE continues to be a strong supporter of EMEC and we are delighted that the team in Orkney is growing. These new additions will give EMEC the additional fire power needed to meet the research needs of an exciting and rapidly-growing industry.'
For more information, and details on the posts which are currently being advertised, visit www.emec.org.uk
EMEC was established with around £15 million of funding from the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Carbon Trust, the UK Government, Scottish Enterprise, the European Union and Orkney Islands Council.