Marine renewable energy systems – wave energy and tidal-stream converters as well as offshore-wind turbines for electricity generation – are mostly at the pre-commercial stage of development. These systems require research and testing to be undertaken at a series of scales and specialised facilities along the path to commercialisation. MARINET (Marine Renewables Infrastructure Network) is an EC-funded infrastructure initiative comprising a network of research centres and organisations that are working together to accelerate the development and commercial deployment of these technologies. The initiative aims to streamline and facilitate testing by offering periods of free-of-charge access to world-class test facilities and by developing joint approaches to testing standards, research and industry networking & training.
The €11m network initiative is majority-funded through the EC's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and runs for four years until 2015. The network of 29 partners with 45 specialist marine research facilities is spread across 11 EU countries and 1 FP7 partner-country, Brazil.
Companies and research groups can avail of periods of free-of-charge access to cross-border facilities (“Transnational Access” - TA) to test devices at any scale in areas such as wave energy, tidal energy, offshore-wind energy and environmental data or to conduct tests in cross-cutting common areas such as power take-off systems, grid integration, materials or moorings. In total, over 700 weeks of access is available to an estimated 300 projects and 800 external users, with at least four calls for access applications over the 4-year initiative.
In parallel to offering free-of-charge access, MARINET partners are working together to:
- implement common standards for testing across the network in order to streamline the development process,
- conduct coordinated research to improve testing capabilities across the network,
- facilitate industry networking & training in the form of user workshops, staff exchange and free-of-charge training courses in order to provide opportunities for collaboration, joint ventures and expertise development.
Each technology type - wave, tidal and off-shore wind energy - is currently at a different stage of development but each one also needs specific research infrastructures to facilitate and catalyse commercialisation. The aim of MARINET is to coordinate research and development at all scales - from small models and laboratory tests through to prototype scales and open sea tests - and to allow access for researchers and developers to facilities which are not available universally in Europe. The linking of facilities at different scales, together with the incorporation of test facilities for cross-cutting, will ensure a focusing of activities in this area. MARINET also brings together a network of personnel in the offshore marine renewable energy sector with expertise at all scales of marine technology research and development. By coordinating unique capabilities and services, MARINET essentially provides a one-stop-shop for marine renewable energy research and testing of devices and concepts in Europe and farther afield. Applicants can use different facilities to suit different stages and scales of the technology’s development – results and techniques used at one facility will be recognised by the next facility. The EC Transnational Access funding seeks to remove financial barriers for companies and research groups who may not qualify for national grant aid for tests taking place outside their home state - as it is generally necessary to test outside the home state at some stage(s) of the development process in order to access unique facilities which do not exist in the home state. Access is open to research groups and companies of any size who wish to avail of these facilities. The two main conditions are that the majority of the applicant group must work in Europe or a country associated to the European FP7 programme, and the proposed facility must be outside the applicant’s home state.