Elaine Maslin, 1st April 2012
Primary school children from Caithness and North Sutherland experienced real life in the marine energy industry when they got to meet the head of a tidal energy developer.
The children explained to Dan Pearson, chief executive of MeyGen, the company behind the MeyGen tidal stream energy project, their ideas for wave energy devices, produced as entries for the Junior Saltire Prize Challenge.
Some 37 children, aged eight to 11, attended the event, held at the Environmental Research Institute in Thurso.
In groups they presented six different designs for converting wave motion into electricity, including concepts of energy storage, protecting sea life and ease of maintenance.
MeyGen has an agreement for lease for a 400megawatt tidal site between the north coast of Caithness and the island of Stroma, called the Inner Sound.
Pearson, who acted as a customer and advisor, said: “It’s great to listen to our young people talking about their ideas for conquering the waves and an excellent opportunity for us to interject feedback from our perspective as a developer working in marine energy. We have been impressed by their enthusiasm and commitment to this project, and urge them to continue pursuing their interests in this way.”
As part of the competition, which will culminate in June with a demonstration of successful entries in Glasgow, teams of children were asked to design and build a simple wave power generator that can be demonstrated from a floating platform in a test tank.
They are also expected to produce documents to support their designs.
The schools are being supported by STEM Ambassadors Louise Smith, Pat Kieran (DSRL Dounreay), Barbara Bremner (Environmental Research Institute) and Joan Speed.
Ms Smith of Caithness Renewables, Thurso-based renewable energy consultancy, said: “As well as having the goal of trying to get through to the final, the schools’ teams have this added real-life experience of trying to keep their customer happy, a very important part of work when they leave school. I hope that the schools will enjoy this aspect, inspiring them to pursue careers in renewable energy which is likely to be a significant part of this area’s economic future.”
Amanda Mackay, teacher at Melvich School, thanked Pearson for helping the children.
“This was the first video-conference for all of them and Dan was wonderful with the children, giving them good advice where it was needed and praising them for their innovative approaches to the problem of installing and maintaining devices in what can be a very hostile environment,” she said.