Plans for the UK to become a world leader in marine and tidal energy technology by 2020 have been boosted after six promising designs were fast-tracked to commercial demonstration.
The £22M Marine Proving Fund, co-ordinated by the Carbon Trust, has awarded between £2M and £5M each to four tidal and two wave power schemes to take ideas from working prototypes to commercial propositions.
The Carbon Trust said up to 1,000 devices could be operating in UK coastal waters by 2020. It added that the UK is so rich in marine and tidal potential that up to 17% of current energy needs could be met by their combined technologies.
“Generating electricity from the UK’s powerful wave and tidal resource not only plays a crucial role in meeting our climate change targets but also presents a significant economic opportunity for the UK,” said Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay. “Wave [energy] alone represents a £2bn economic opportunity for the UK.”
Plugging the financial leaks
The Carbon Trust’s cash will fill a funding gap that exists between prototype and commercial demonstration stages. Technology developers welcomed the fund.
Pelamis Technologies business development director Max Carcas said the funding amounted to as much as had been made available in the last 10 years.
Delay told NCE that the schemes were chosen not just because they demonstrated technical reliability and robustness, but that the companies behind them had ambitious plans to generate tens of megawatts of power.
“The demonstration of full 0scale devices at sea is central to realising the full potential of marine energy and getting the first commercial projects in the water is critical to ‘de-risk’ the technology and attract the necessary private sector investment, he said.
He added that wave and marine energies could deliver baseload energy to the grid. Because tidal ranges operate at different times around the UK, this could “smooth” production. Wave technologies were more likely to produce continuous power.
Aquamarine chief executive Martin McAdam said marine and tidal technology was a decade behind off shore wind.
Last month plans for a 32GW expansion of the UK’s offshore wind energy industry were announced by the Crown Estate (NCE 14 January).
The bulk of the schemes will be based at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) off Orkney.
SEA SIX: THE SELECTED TIDAL ENERGY SYSTEMS
PELAMIS P2 750KW WAVE SYSTEM
Characteristic snake design generates electricity as articulations between units move. Modular design allows parts to be exchanged easily. New version will be deployed at EMEC in the summer.
MARINE CURRENT TURBINES 1.2MW SEAGEN TIDAL SYSTEM
16m twin turbine system attached to central column has been operating in the Bristol channel for several years, and money will take system forward to commercial demonstration.
ATLANTIS AK-1000 1MW TIDAL TURBINE
Uses 18m bi-directional turbine design with high-efficiency blades. Only moving part in design is central shaft. To be deployed at EMEC in 2011.
AQUAMARINE 1.5MW OYSTER II WAVE SYSTEM
Effectively a giant hinge that opens and closes from wave movement. Action drives water pumps that in turn drive turbines on land. Deployment at EMEC in 2011.
HAMMERFEST STRØM UK 1MW HS-1000 TIDAL SYSTEM
Norweigan blade system held in place by ballast, operating in Norway for several years. Next generation will be deployed at EMEC in 2011.
VOITH 1MW TIDAL TURBINE
German company established in hydropower turbine design. Tidal design uses propeller-style blades to drive turbines. 300kW prototype working off Korea. 1MW design to be deployed at EMEC in 2011.