Richard Yemm, founder of Pelamis Wave Power, the Scottish company that fielded the world’s first wave energy converter off the coast of Portugal in 2008, has been awarded the Saltire Prize Medal, “for his outstanding contribution to the marine renewables sector.” The Saltire prize is part of the Scottish government’s effort to publicize its “ambition to become the leading force in clean, green, marine energy,” says Scottish Development International’s Saltire Prize website. Scotland’s First Minister presented the award at the Scottish Renewables annual conference dinner in Edinburgh.
Yemm invented the so-called “sea snake” while working on his doctoral degree at the University of Edinburgh. To this point, his company has achieved several firsts. In addition to the breakthrough of generating electric power that was routed through an undersea cable to the Portuguese coastal town of Aguçadoura, Pelamis is still the only company to sell wave energy converters to UK utility firms.
Pelamis's generator—three long canisters linked by hinged joints that push hydraulic rams that pump high-pressure oil through turbines inside the canisters—was first tested at the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC), which is located amid the Orkney Islands off Scotland's northeastern coast.
The UK created EMEC with an eye toward making renewables 20 percent of its energy mix by 2020.
It’s important to note that while the Saltire Prize medal is certainly an honor, it is no guarantee that Yemm and his company will ultimately win the £10 million Saltire Prize that will be awarded in 2017. To walk away with the money, a team will need to generate the most electricity beyond the minimum output of 100 gigawatt-hours over a continuous two year period using only the power of the waters off Scotland’s coast.