Solar power might be stealing the limelight when it comes to the subject of renewable energy, but ocean waves are also seen as a great, largely untapped source of clean power. The latest news surrounding attempts to mine this potentially limitless energy source comes from Scottish marine energy technology developer, AWS Ocean Energy, which has started testing its new wave energy device in Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands.

The test unit is a 1/9th scale version of the company’s AWS-III device and consists of a ring-shaped multi-cell surface-floating wave power system. To overcome one of the fundamental barriers to delivering practical wave energy, the AWS-III design eliminates moving mechanical parts coming into contact with sea-water by using a novel system of flexible diaphragms arranged around a steel hull and incorporating air turbines.

AWS Ocean Energy will test the 1/9th scale device on Loch Ness over the next four months, but no electricity will be generated. Instead the tests will provide valuable design data with the goal of confirming the AWS-III’s electricity (and revenue) generation potential.

If the scale device performs as expected AWS Ocean Energy will then build and deploy a full-scale single cell in order to prove the durability of the diaphragms. The company says a single utility-scale AWS-III, measuring around 60 meters in diameter, will be capable of generating up to 2.5 Megawatts (MW) of continuous power. The company then plans to launch a 12-cell, 2.5 MW pre-commercial demonstrator in 2012.

Subject to financing and planning consents, AWS Ocean Energy plans to have a 10 MW pre-commercial demonstration farm operating in 2014.