Taming ocean's energy

IEC looks into conformity assessment solution for marine energy equipment

By Claire Marchand

While oceans are an enormous source of renewable energy with the potential to satisfy an important percentage of the world's demand for electricity, marine energy has not evolved at the same rate as other types of renewable energy. Although there has been on-going research in this field for the last 30 years, the technologies developed to harness the energy from waves, tidal and water currents are still at early stages of development. Driven by the necessity to look for alternative options to increase the amount of energy produced, some countries have recently started to invest in projects that convert ocean power into electric power.

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Reducing production costs through efficient design and reasonably-priced quality materials and components is crucial to improving the overall economic viability and acceptability of wave, tidal and water current energy converters. This is where standards, IEC International Standards in particular, can play a major role.

IEC International Standards underway

Some years ago, the IEC identified the need to address the standardization of marine energy and in 2007, established IEC TC (Technical Committee) 114 to prepare International Standards for marine energy conversion systems. The primary focus of the TC is on the conversion of wave, tidal and other water current energy into electrical energy, although other conversion methods, systems and products are included. The TC is currently working on several International Standards addressing terminology, design and performance of marine energy converters.

Very early on in their work, TC 114 experts saw that while standards were essential in providing manufacturers with a basis for ensuring the reliability of these technologies and their safe deployment, it was also important that all device developers should provide all interested parties, in particular financiers and insurers, with proof that their products were designed, manufactured, tested and certified in accordance with these standards.

Specific CA solution for TC 114

At the request of TC 114, the IEC CAB (Conformity Assessment Board) authorized, in October 2010, the establishment of an ad hoc WG (Working Group) to outline the specific needs of the TC in terms of CA (Conformity Assessment).

Comprising experts from CAB and TC 114, with IECEx* and IECQ** Executive Secretary Chris Agius as Convenor and TC 114 Chairman Melanie Nadeau as Co-Convenor, the ad hoc WG met in Boston, US (United States), in early May 2011. The goals of the meeting were to develop a clear understanding of the CA needs of the marine energy industry and a suitable model to meet these needs.

Several experts made presentations during the meeting. Nadeau gave a status report on the work of TC 114. Agius explained the evolution of the IECEx System from the initial needs identified by IEC TC 31: Equipment for explosive atmospheres, to the actual establishment of the System, adding that there are many parallels between the Ex industry and the marine energy sector, such as high capital investment and harsh environmental conditions in deployment. Other experts shared their experience in the development of specific CA solutions. As a result, all participants reached agreement that there is a clear need for a unique CA approach for the marine energy industry. They also highlighted the fact that developing a comprehensive and tailor-made CA framework will be possible since many of the standards requirements have yet to be determined.

Recommendation approved

The outcome of the meeting was a recommendation to CAB to transform the ad hoc WG into a CAB WG that will include additional representation from key stakeholders from the marine energy sector, such as utilities, regulators, investors and insurers. Device developers, purchasers and all interested parties will benefit from a common framework, with international acceptance, which will provide them with independent assurance risk mitigation and a roadmap of compliance through standards. Members of this new CAB WG15 comprise experts from well known and active organisations such as Rockwell Automation, LCIE – Bureau Veritas, GL Group, Voith Hydro, DKE (the German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies of DIN and VDE), SEK Svensk Elstandard, Det Norske Veritas, Lloyd's Register Group, Black and Veatch, Ricardo UK Ltd, Aquamarine Power, Resolute Marine Energy and JPower.

The recommendation was approved by CAB at its June meeting in Stockholm, Sweden. The CAB WG on marine energy can now start working on the development of a single international system that provides a common framework for Conformity Assessment in the marine energy industry, operating within the IEC CA structure. Its next meeting is planned for November 2011 in Frankfurt and will be hosted by the German National Committee.

* IECEx is the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres

** IECQ is the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components

Aquamarine Power’s Oyster wave power technology captures energy in nearshore waves and converts it into clean sustainable electricity. Aquamarine Power’s Oyster wave power technology captures energy in nearshore waves and converts it into clean sustainable electricity.
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