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UK ‘should focus’ on tidal stream technology

Atlantis turbine launch

UK policy makers should focus on supporting the tidal stream technology such as that used by the Meygen project, according to the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

ETI says an agreement on a Contract for Difference (CfD) for the UK’s tidal energy is crucial to the sector making progress. It adds it is ‘pivotal’ that the Meygen project is a success.

Tidal stream technology, as opposed to other types of marine energy such as tidal lagoons or wave power, should be the focus because the technology can be commercially exploited, said ETI.

Tidal lagoon technology is not as developed as tidal stream technology and it needs large levels of investment to deploy it at scale, said ETI. Last week’s Hendry review, which was set up to look at the cost effectiveness of tidal lagoons, and concluded the government should give the technology its backing.

ETI also said developers of wave energy need to reconsider their approaches to extraction and conversion to find ways that will reduce costs, otherwise it could be too expensive.

Meygen is part of the delivery consortium for the ETI Tidal Energy Converter project, which was project managed by Black & Veatch..

Although tidal stream energy is reliable and predictable, it is location specific, and some of the most powerful tidal sites are remote. Therefore ETI says it will work best providing energy for costal locations.

“The UK has some of the best tidal waters in the world, but these are generally a long way from grid connections and major population centres where the demand is greatest. Marine energy also requires engineering solutions to work in the harshest of environments and it is incredibly challenging to build equipment that operates effectively and reliably,” said ETI strategy manager Stuart Bradley.

“Whilst it has been demonstrated that you can create and capture energy from the sea it is currently very expensive to do so and this has to be addressed for the sector to grow. A rethink is required in wave to bring costs down, but the early signs are that bodies such as Wave Energy Scotland are tackling this challenge so support should continue to be provided to such work. The UK has some of the world’s best tidal and wave resources and we do lead the world in tidal and wave device development. But it remains an industry in relevant infancy. Policy makers need to review the evidence base and decide the exact contribution of marine energy to a future low carbon energy industry so the industry can move ahead, improve cost performance and contribute positively.”

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