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Islay Wave Power Station

The world's first commercial wave-power station is located on the SW coast of the Rhinns of Islay, a quarter-mile (0.5 km) west northwest of Claddach and a mile (1.5 km) northwest of Portnahaven. Commissioned in November 2000, following two years under construction, this prototype station clings to the rocks in a small cove and is known as LIMPET (Land Installed Marine Power Energy Transmitter). The project was developed by Wavegen in conjunction with the Environmental Engineering Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast. The site was chosen owing to its exposed nature, with sizeable waves, yet a low tidal range. The station has a theoretical output of 500 kW of power, generated by harnessing an oscillating water column to drive air back and forth through a pair of contra-rotating pneumatic turbines. The water enters a three-chamber collector, which represents the seaward face of the structure, and then compresses air through the turbines which are 2.6m (8½ feet) in diameter and rotating at 1050 rpm.

The station is remotely operated, with data collected to assess the cost-benefits of the system, comparing actual output with values predicted from models. Although the prototype has been shown to be robust and reliable, several problems have been identified; the station functions at just 20% of its installed capacity for much of the year due to the geometry of the site. In addition, the large waves made construction difficult and building costs were significant due to the need to manufacture specific components on-site, whereas future projects could reduce capital costs by making use of prefabricated elements.

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