Aquatera - possibly the most experienced marine energy consultancy in the world?

August 7th 2013

It's a bold question to ask but when you consider the pedigree and experience that Aquatera has in the sector it may well be that the question can be considered a true statement. Aquatera’s history in marine renewables goes back over 20 years and the level of activity since then has been spectacular.

Aquatera’s founder and MD Gareth Davies moved up to Orkney in 1990 to help establish the International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT). The aim of this research centre was to examine approaches for the sustainable exploitation of island resources including wind, wave and tidal energy. ICIT subsequently undertook a number of research studies aimed at assessing resource potential and in 1995 Gareth led a team that undertook the EIA for the deployment of the Osprey wave energy device off Dounreay, mainland Scotland.

It was however 2000 before the floodgates started open for renewables and for Aquatera’s direct involvement to begin. Aquatera joined the Orkney Renewable Energy Forum (OREF) and became involved in the emerging energy revolution that was beginning to take shape in the islands. Planning work by Aquatera for what was to become EMEC started in 2001, two milestone “Renewable Realities” events were run in 2002/3 and the first renewables resource assessments for Orkney and Shetland were completed during 2003/4.

Aquatera has been delivering a modern and innovative suite of environmental services and products ever since to local, UK and worldwide markets, building a strong track record in marine renewables and other energy sectors.

The Stromness based company’s work includes: strategic energy and marine spatial planning; a wide range of environmental surveying activities; undertaking and managing environmental impact assessments (EIAs); completing resource assessment studies and risk assessments; engaging in public consultation and public communications initiatives and providing a wide range of operations support activities for technology deployment and project development.

In addition to substantial experience in renewable energy, Aquatera and its sizable network of associates possess a vast knowledge of wider environmental and social studies, particularly in offshore and coastal areas. The Aquatera led team of expert practitioners has completed numerous research projects, including a number funded by the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other government bodies.

Aquatera's core focus is upon the environment, in its broadest sense. Whether considering plankton or people, habitats or homes, birds or businesses, the company ensures that any policy, plan or project meets the highest standards of stewardship and stakeholder expectations, whilst also working for the overall success of the particular scheme. Aquatera specialises in the management of interactions with, and impacts on, the environment.

A multi award winning company, Aquatera was most recently recognised through the acclaimed Energy North Awards (2011), which commended the firm’s contribution to the export of marine renewables products and services across the globe. In addition to winning the Export award, Managing Director Dr Gareth Davies won the Ambassador Award for services above and beyond the call of duty in the industry.

Gareth Davies MD of Aquatera commented:

“Over the last twelve years we have sought to build a company that has the expertise and capacity to make a real difference in delivering new and better ways of providing global energy. Our special niche is in the marine energies of wave and tide, but many of the tools that we have developed, the approaches that we follow and the knowledge that we have, can equally be applied to offshore wind and even the offshore oil and gas sectors.”

He went on the explain:

“At the heart of what we do is a 360° perspective on environmental interactions considering both the effects of development on the environment but also the effects upon development from the environment. This holistic approach helps us to find the right solutions for our clients to all of the pressures that they face”.

Over the last few years Aquatera has built a prodigious reputation for the internationalisation of its services. Continuing upon this success Aquatera has continued to build its international portfolio adding Japan, Ghana and South Korea as a new areas of activity and reinforcing its activities in the USA, Chile, Taiwan, Norway & Portugal.

Gareth Davies commented:

“in classic business theory businesses are meant to focus on a particular country or region to develop markets, but this is an outdated model – our experience would show that the globalisation of markets and internet communications has created a different export landscape. The key to our success has however been our attitude to collaboration – wherever we go we seek to work with local experts and specialists in strong collaborative partnerships. It’s not at all about Aquatera going somewhere and taking over it’s about finding people with shared goals and ambitions and working with them. In essence we are simply applying the principles that underpin successful business in the islands of Orkney where trust, loyalty, collaboration and accountability still count for something”.

The fusion of, what some may consider, old fashioned values with the latest thinking about global business dynamics may seem an uneasy fit. Given the turmoil that has afflicted the global economy on the back of some less than traditional business practises, this Orkney form of global entrepreneurship may well catch on.

Aquatera is continuing to break into new markets and seek new delivery partners in different parts of the world as well as building on the strong relationships already forged. It is hoped that Australia, New Zealand and Canada will get added to the mix over the coming months.

Since its establishment in 2000, Aquatera has believed in the importance of innovation and proactivity in what it does and the services and products that it provides. The pioneering outcomes that have arisen are many and have covered a broad range of Aquatera’s activities. In relation to Aquatera’s core environmental services they include:

  • the development of EIA and environmental surveying standards;
  • novel approaches to the scoping of environmental impacts;
  • tools for mapping the suitability of developments and the potential for cumulative effects over wide geographical areas;
  • a tool for identifying species and habitats that need to be considered within any HRA process;
  • a 3D virtual environment that includes overland and undersea environments;
  • survey strategies based upon visual surveillance
  • approaches to classifying impacts that support multidisciplinary analysis within BPEO/BAT and BEP type studies
  • use of boat based ADCP surveys for mapping tidal currents
  • interpretation of detailed bathymetry data to inform geological and geomorphological understanding of seabed areas
  • the development of bird surveying strategies which are appropriate for tidal streams and exposed wave areas

Alongside these activities, and subsequently, Aquatera has undertaken some 200 studies related to marine renewables and its associated infrastructure. This work has involved projects for over 15 technology developers, for 7 utility/project developers encompassing 17 countries. This experience provides a unique perspective over the industry from the origins of technology ideas through to the delivery of clean and green energy to local and distant energy markets.

More recently Aquatera has also focused its attention on trying to solve some of the more challenging difficulties that the environment throws up from an engineering and operational standpoint. Using its deep understanding of the environment and the forces and conditions that it creates Aquatera has developed concepts for:

  • Novel low cost tidal technology deployment strategies
  • Pioneering wave and tidal device installation and recovery craft
  • Seabed cable laying, connection and handling technology
  • Novel approaches to technology testing and performance verification

It is clear that supply chain specialists such as Aquatera have a wealth of understanding and solutions to help the marine energy sector be a success. After all it is the supply chain that technology developers, project developers, utilities and governments turn to for advice, services and supplies. So what is the key to unlocking this potential? In Aquatera’s experience its most successful support for its clients has arisen when they ask how we can help, or what do we think they need, rather than saying how much would it be for this or that?! With 10 years of activity in the marine energy sector preceded by decades of offshore oil and gas experience there are many areas where experience and expertise can help to spot the solutions that are needed.

Given the scale of activity now undertaken Aquatera has established considerable team of specialists and experts covering a wide range of disciplines. Following a flexible scheme well suited to international business from an island location Aquatera runs a model of an integrated staff and associate team amounting to around 50 people. The strength, breadth and cohesion of this team has been a big part of Aquatera’s success and has also led to the formation of spin-off companies and enduring collaborations with like-minded companies and organisations not only in Orkney but around the world.

Gareth Davies, “with the breadth and strength of resources available to us and the experience that they have, it is hard to think of another team that can and has delivered as much for the marine energy sector in Orkney and elsewhere around the world”.

Aquatera has a proven track record in finding solutions in the most challenging marine environments and also in a wide range of coastal and terrestrial situations. By completing over 400 projects in its 12 years of activity, and with longstanding client relationships Aquatera is a successful and well-respected company that thinks locally and acts globally.


Wave (7)









Tidal (10)



Ponte di Archimeadae

Open Hydro



Voith Hydro





Others (6)





Oscilla Power

Wave Bob

SSER Westray

Cantick Head


Pelamis WI

Pelamis Farr Point

EMEC wave

EMEC tide



Renewables (17)














South Korea






Others (6)