A CA System for marine energy?
IEC working on new conformity assessment structure
Oceans offer an enormous source of renewable energy with the potential to satisfy an important percentage of the world's demand for electricity. Marine energy however has not evolved at the same rate as other types of renewable energy. While research in this field has been ongoing for more than 30 years, the technologies used to harness the energy from waves and from tidal and water currents are still in development. Driven by the necessity to look for alternative options to increase the amount of energy produced, some countries have started to invest in projects that convert ocean power into electric power.
Reducing production costs through efficient design and reasonably-priced quality materials and components is crucial to improving the overall economic viability and acceptability of wave energy converters as well as of tidal and water current energy converters. This is where standards, IEC International Standards in particular, can play a major role.
First IEC International Standards issued
More than 10 years ago, the IEC identified the need to address the standardization of marine energy and in 2007 established IEC TC (Technical Committee) 114 to prepare International Standards for marine energy conversion systems. The primary focus of the TC is on the conversion of wave, tidal and other water current energy into electrical energy, although other conversion methods, systems and products are included.
At the end of 2011, TC 114 issued its first publication, IEC/TS 62600-1, Marine energy - Wave, tidal and other water current converters - Part 1: Terminology, which was followed in August 2012 by IEC 62600-100, Marine energy - Wave, tidal and other water current converters - Part 100: Electricity producing wave energy converters - Power performance assessment. The TC is currently working on several other International Standards addressing the design and performance of marine energy converters.
A CA solution for marine energy
Establishing a TC to develop standards was a first step for the IEC. The logical next step was to address the CA (Conformity Assessment) aspect. At the request of TC 114, in 2010, IEC CAB (Conformity Assessment Board) authorized the establishment of an ad hoc WG (Working Group) to explore the CA needs of this sector.
Since then, the ad hoc WG has been transformed into WG 15 to develop possible CA solutions. The group has met on several occasions and produced a “Blueprint”, endorsed by CAB, as the basis for CA in the marine energy industry.
The fifth meeting of WG 15 took place in Singapore on 29-30 January 2013. Its main objectives were to reach an agreement on the proposed structure for the new CA System. Also on the agenda was consideration of a pathway leading to the operation of a common approach to certification for the industry, and a draft set of rules that would enable the establishment of a new CA System was included.
Outlining a structure
During various WG 15 meetings, members received presentations and information on the current CA Systems and their Schemes, namely IECEE (IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components), IECEx (IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres) and IECQ (IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components). While the IECEx System and Schemes provided a likely model, the unique aspects of the marine energy industry required more of a “Systems Approach” to cover stages from design concept to prototype, in addition to production of equipment and components, transportation, installation and commissioning. WG 15 Convenor Chris Agius, who is also the IECEx Executive Secretary, along with Co-Convenor Melanie Nadeau, from Emera, both agreed on the unique CA aspects of the marine energy industry.
In the discussions that ensued, several options were reviewed, including a proposal for a RE (Renewable Energy) System within which different RE sectors will be able to operate schemes. Contact with CAB WT CAC (Wind Turbine Conformity Assessment Committee), the group that is working on a CA solution for the wind energy sector, will be sought to allow for an exchange of views on this issue.
CAB will consider a report from WG 15, along with that from the CAB WT CAC, at its CAB June 2013 meeting – the WT CAC meeting is scheduled to take place in early April in Kyoto, Japan.
WG 15 Blueprint
The Standards being developed by IEC TC 114 address a critical need for an industry that is characterized by a diverse range of technology concepts that will be deployed in harsh environmental conditions. The International Standards will provide a basis for ensuring the reliability of these technologies and their safe deployment.
As is the case with other industries, device developers will additionally have to provide evidence to interested parties (financiers and insurers) that they have designed, manufactured and tested their devices in accordance with an accepted protocol. In general, this type of assurance is best served through third-party verification and certification.
While device developers, purchasers and interested parties will benefit from a framework that will provide them with independent assurance risk mitigation and a route map of compliance through Standards, the IEC framework for a common approach for certification provides that added confidence in both the process and the certification providers themselves.
The CAB WG 15 Blueprint covers the CA needs of the new and burgeoning marine energy industry (within the scope of TC 114) with the goal of building confidence among existing and new stakeholders.
IEC experience in operating CA Systems and Schemes under the control of the CAB, coupled with expertise from the marine energy industry drawn from TC 114 will ensure that the marine energy industry will be well served.