LOCE Wind and Wave Energy Weblog

The web's first ocean and offshore wind energy weblog. Continuously renewed, like the ocean itself.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

An Interview With OPD CEO, Richard Yemm


This article, Yemm makes waves in the energy sector (Sunday Herald, 7/05) interviews the founder and CEO of Ocean Power Delivery , a leading wave energy company in Scotland that developed the Pelamis. Here's an excerpt about Yemm's success:

The chief executive and founder of Ocean Power Delivery is at the forefront of the marine-renewables sector in the UK and, by extension, the world. He has a £6m contract under his belt to supply wave energy-generating machines to a wave farm in Portugal and is negotiating to establish Scotland’s first commercial wave farm. But he has a well honed sense of how fragile the nascent marine device industry is.

As a former engineer in the wind turbine industry, he knows Scotland and the UK could easily find itself starting out as a market and technology leader but end up playing economically devastating catch-up.

Yemm built Ocean Power Delivery on fees earned by his invention of a device to stop wind turbines from suffering a particular kind of vibration damage, but he was drawn to wave power. “People were saying, ‘After you’ve had a few beers you’re always talking about how much better wave power would be than wind in the long run, so put your money where your mouth is and go and do it,’” recalls Yemm. In 1998 he did, founding OPD.

Yemm has a distinctly entrepreneurial approach to his company's technology, quite different from others in the industry who in the past, have been more science-oriented:

“It’s all very well making a brilliant machine that can turn waves into energy but if you can’t turn it into a business it’s got no future.”

He lists as his proudest achievements not the day he built the vibration-dampening device which funded all subsequent ventures, nor the day an OPD prototype hit the water, but the first time he raised venture capital funding and the company’s first actual sale.

“The biggest single achievement has to be selling something. Securing our first sales contract really has been the pinnacle,” he says.

It is exactly this that sets OPD apart. There are a handful of very different wave generators in development across the UK but it is the £6m contract with Portuguese developer Enersis and the venture capital funding raised that mark OPD out as the most advanced contender.

Ocean developers need to realize that ocean renewables aren't just a cause, but a business. If developers can't sell their ideas well enough to attract investment, then no matter how brilliant the concept, it may never see the light of day - or in this case, the bottom of the ocean.

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