2023 has been a productive and eventful year for us at META – Wales’ Marine Energy Test Area. As we all prepare to welcome in the new year, we thought we’d recap on a packed twelve months full of milestones, partnerships, and pioneering initiatives, and look ahead to what 2024 might hold.

new marine licence

It’s already been over twelve months since we upgraded our marine licence, expanding our abilities to be able to accommodate more tidal turbines and larger mooring spreads. Broadening our testing capabilities is always high on the agenda at META, and we’re extremely pleased to now be able to offer increased testing facilities to our clients – such as the ability to test component parts at greater speeds and tidal devices with 3 turbine rotors – a design pathway many developers are following.

Tidal turbine testing

In fact, 2023 saw the first deployment of a tidal turbine at META, at our Warrior Way site. The RRES (Remote River Energy System) – an energy converting device intended for use in fast flowing rivers. The deployment was a joint project by Swansea University and MEECE, and the objective was to trial the turbine, transmission, and pump system. The device was put into the water in March 2023, and it was fantastic for us to be able to see the real-sea testing in action. With the success for tidal developers in the most recent CfD round, we hope to be able to support the development of the sector in Wales in 2024 and beyond.

low-carbon concrete trials

As we moved from Spring into Summer and welcomed the better weather, META also welcomed Cardiff University, facilitating their experiment on low-carbon concrete. A team from the university installed several low-carbon concrete samples at our META Quayside site. Their aim is to investigate the durability of the samples in intertidal marine environments and explore the feasibility of their use in tidal lagoon schemes. The deployment was testament to our commitment at META not only to explore and support sustainable energy solutions, but also to address broader environmental challenges.

saying farewell to the meece buoy

June saw us bid farewell to MEECE’s scientific marine buoy, after over a year of successful testing. The buoy was the first to be launched in Wales by Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE).

Since April 2022, the device facilitated sea trials to test equipment aimed at decarbonising the shipping industry and overcoming engineering challenges from floating offshore wind (FLOW).  It was an important milestone for both MEECE and META, allowing the former to enhance their offering to the Welsh marine and offshore renewable energy sectors. The buoy featured solar storage panels and a livestream data logger.

supporting students

In July we hosted the first in a series of workshops for Pembrokeshire students. The session was an opportunity for the pupils to set up and deploy the META Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) at a local swimming pool, to get an insight into how it works and what it can be used for. The pupils, who all attend Milford Haven School, also learned about META and about women working in the renewable energy sector from KR Wind Turbine Ltd. Helping to inspire the next generation is a key part of what we do as part of Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum, and we’re looking forward to hosting similar events over the next twelve months.

Deploying for data

The end of Summer was a very busy time for the META team. September kicked off with another milestone – the first ever deployment of a wave buoy at our quayside Criterion Jetty site. The Sofar Spotter wave buoy collects and transmits wave, wind, sea surface temperature and barometric pressure data in real-time. This deployment means we at META and our clients can better understand the conditions at the site, and it highlights our commitment to expanding our data collection.

hosting vips

We also hosted a very special VIP at META – Wales’ Minister for Climate Change Julie James. As part of her visit, the minister was taken on a boat tour around the Milford Haven Waterway to see some of our sites. It was fantastic to be able to update Ms James and all our developments, so she can see first-hand the work being done here in Pembrokeshire to protect our coastline and support Wales’ transition to Net Zero. The day was also a chance for the Minister to learn about the wider work of Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum (PCF), explore our varied projects and meet the team and key partners in person.

helping to test nature-based solutions

Our pre-consented sites can be used not just for energy converters but innovative components too, and in September we highlighted this by facilitating an important deployment of ‘ExoReefs’ – nature friendly infrastructure that could be used in the future on floating offshore wind projects in the Celtic Sea. The deployment was a joint venture between MEECE, Hiraeth Energy and Exo Engineering. It aims to demonstrate the viability of using nature-inclusive design in cable scour protection.

collaboration & sharing data

Throughout Autumn and Winter, the META team have been attending conferences and events, and preparing for 2024. We were also very pleased to collaborate with Blue Gem Wind, who shared important wind speed data from our East Pickard Bay site. The data was collected as part of the development of the Erebus floating wind project, which is planned to be built approximately 45km off the coast of Pembrokeshire. Having access to data like this not only enhances our understanding of conditions at the site, it also supports the sector by providing valuable information for other developers and researchers planning future projects with us.

looking ahead to 2024

We plan to hit the ground running with multiple deployments in early 2024. Dolphyn Hydrogen will be testing their floating hydrogen production system, designed to be coupled with renewable energy, PEBL will be testing their multifunctional environmental monitoring buoys, and for the second time, Swansea University will be deploying their multi-use tidal energy barge, which can support different turbine designs.

In 2024 META also plans to be out and about, engaging with developers and researchers to scope innovative projects at META. We’re particularly looking forward to attending the Marine Energy Wales conference in March.

As well as working with wave and tidal developers, META is always open to conversations with those developing other technologies – for example floating wind components, floating solar systems, anchors and moorings, environmental sensors and aquaculture. Our sites are well placed to support the development of marine technologies across the board.