One of Scotland's leading pioneers of wave power has reaffirmed confidence in the nascent marine power technology, after revealing that component failures had set the company back by at least two years.

Martin McAdam, chief executive of Edinburgh-based Aquamarine said the Oyster device, installed at Orkney's European Marine Energy Centre "will get there" after achieving an uninterrupted 24 hours of electricity generation, 18 months after installation in the Pentland Firth.

The development of commercial marine power has been slower than expected, as the difficulties of developing and testing "survivable" equipment have become evident.

"When you build something for the first time, things will fail," McAdam told the Sunday Herald. "This is called learning, and we need to be frank about what we discover, share information and work as an industry to overcome these technical hurdles.

"The Oyster 800 has already withstood two severe winters. The concept definitely works – we just need to make it more reliable. It was Thomas Edison who said, 'I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.'

"[Unlike] lightbulbs we cannot afford multiple prototypes. What we do need is the continued strong support of government and shareholders in this journey, and I have no doubt we will get there."

McAdam revealed that the 800 – the second prototype of the seabed-mounted hinge device which pumps high pressure water to a shore-based generator – has been plagued by component and connection failures since installation. The company will now exploit calmer summer conditions to "swap out all the unreliable sub-components and replace them with redesigned elements".

Although a third generation Oyster, to be known as the 801, was originally intended to be deployed this summer, the commissioning of the construction of the new device has been delayed and it will not now be deployed before 2015.

Wave power has so far attracted less investment than its tidal equivalent – where there has been a series of high-profile big-company purchases of technology leaders, including those by Alstom, Andritz and DCNS. However McAdam claimed that wave power was likely to catch up.

He said: "There is no doubt there is strong investor interest in the wave sector. What we must do as an industry is deliver reliable power production from our devices and investment will follow.

"Alongside this, we need continued government support for demonstration projects and arrays in order to show an achievable route to market. This is what has worked for tidal [power] and I have no doubt it will work for wave."

Aquamarine is awaiting Scottish Government approval "in the coming weeks" for the first phase of projected array of Oyster devices in water 10-15m deep off the north coast of Lewis. The scheme, anticipated to start with an array of three devices generating three megawatts in 2017, will gradually build to a 40- or 50-device, 40MW array, enough to power 38,000 homes.

To date, around £70 million has been spent on developing and testing the Oyster concept, raised from investors including power firms ABB and SSE, plus the Environmental Energies Fund and Scottish Enterprise. In September 2011, the firm secured a £3.4m loan from Barclays, the first UK marine energy project to win debt finance.

Other setbacks for wave technology include the July 2011 withdrawal of German utility firm RWE NPower Renewables for what was billed as the world's largest "wave farm" – a £30m scheme off Siadar Bay, on the north coast of Lewis. And last month, German firm Voith Hydro announced the closure of its Wavegen operation, which built the world's first grid-connected wave power station off Islay, after deciding to centralise wave power work in Germany. Meanwhile changes in the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) subsidy system after 2015 are casting doubt over the future investment environment.

Steven Brown, partner and marine power specialist at solicitors Harper Macleod, said: "The delay in commercialising this technology shouldn't have been unexpected. It is hard to get across how hostile moving water is. The big breakthrough will come when a utility company orders a 10-machine array costing around £50m, which may be 25-30 months away.

"I'm not sure if it was wrong for the Scottish Government to raise expectations [about the imminence of commercial marine power]. Government's role is to lead; the Scottish Government and the UK government have put their money where mouth is. If it hadn't been for that funding, we wouldn't have a marine energy sector, as the entry ticket is so expensive."

Aquamarine's chief executive, Martin McAdam, has become the latest business leader to declare his voting intentions in next year's referendum on Scotland's future constitution, stating his personal preference for a Yes vote for independence.

The businessman, originally from Drogheda in the Republic of Ireland, told the Sunday Herald: "I've worked all over the world and one of the great things about Scotland is the transparency in the political environment and the alignment between the civil service and government policy.

"Scotland is already a good place to invest in renewables and I can only think that would be enhanced it Scotland was independent."