Renewable Harland and Wolff

Harland and Wolff, masters of the waves once more

Ninety five years since the Titanic took to the waves Harland and Wolff are still turning out cutting edge sea-going machinery.

But this vessel is no Atlantic crossing luxury liner. Wavebob is in fact a prototype ocean energy generator which could revolutionise how Ireland makes its electricity. As the name suggests, Wavebob bobs up and down in the waves. The smart part happens inside where this movement is cleverly converted into electricity.

For the last month Wavebob has been in Galway Bay in a new 37 hectare test site for prototype ocean energy generators. With today’s computers, waves are as predictable as electricity prices rising. Even on calm days the Atlantic still bobs up and down in time giving huge generation potential. It’s thought that waves coming in from the Atlantic could generate up to 55% of the Ireland’s energy needs.

If the testing in the Atlantic is as successful as that which took place in wave tanks in Cork then Wavebob will be a huge success. With the Irish Government already showing signs that they are for the idea of wave generation it is likely that by 2010, yellow Wavebobs will be seen bobbing up and down all along the Atlantic coast.

Another great thing about Wavebob is that its impact will not just be limited to the Irish coast. The generator has potential to be marketed across the world with interest expressed already from London and Oslo. With a huge amount of available coast line across the world to exploit, Wavebob Ltd which is working in partnership with Harland and Wolff could well see business boom. And by harnessing this predictable energy source Harland and Wolff will not only be saving itself but the environment at the same time.

Harland and Wolff are not just turning their hands to the new world of wave generation. The firm is also building massive wind turbines as part of the British government’s latest venture into renewable technology.

Boasting the world’s largest dry dock, the Harland and Wolff yard is ideal for building the 30,250 tonne, 120m tall turbines, which have just been erected 7km off the coast of Cumbria in the Irish Sea. These will generate enough electricity to power 65,000 homes, saving 200,000 tonnes of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere.

‘It is estimated that wind energy capacity across Europe has been growing at more than 20% each year, and with strict EU regulations with regard to expanding renewable energy capacity, it is likely that the rate of growth will increase in the years to come,’ said David McVeigh, marketing director of Harland and Wolff.

Not only the wind energy market but the green energy market as a sector is growing rapidly. Currently wind is the forerunner with many other areas, like wave technology, being explored.

The UK is still lagging behind on its promise made in signing the Kyoto Protocol in 1990 to reduce their carbon emissions by 2012, although they are doing better than many of their European counterparts. The obvious answer is the renewables market, with strong public support and none of the controversy surrounding nuclear power. Regardless of whether Tony Blair opts for nuclear or not, the huge renewables market throughout the world can only grow. Harland and Wolf's progress in this area is a positive sign.

Harland and Wolff have plenty of resources to offer in expertise, space and machinery. With Samson and Goliath being among the few survivors from a once heavily industrialised city it is exciting to think that they are not just a giant tourist attraction or pieces of urban ‘art’ but a vital part of Harland and Wolff’s future.