Future prospects and challenges for the Wave and Tidal Stream Energy Sectors

Stephanie Merry
Head of Marine, Renewable Energy Association

T: 07786 543138
E: smerry@r-e-a.net
W: http://www.r-e-a.net/

Within the global arena, the UK remains at the forefront of tidal wave and tidal stream energy sectors. This stems from:

  • A plentiful marine energy resource – 50% of the European tidal stream resource and 30% of the European wave resource lie within UK waters
  • Unrivalled demonstration and test facilities
  • The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in the Orkneys:
  • Wavehub off Hayle in Cornwall
  • FaBTest in Falmouth Bay
  • National Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) in Blyth
  • Historically supportive government policies
  • A skills base of creative engineering and transferable skills from the offshore oil and gas sector
  • The world’s first commercial leasing rounds for wave and tidal stream energy, in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters

But other countries are preparing to take over the leading role, particularly France and Canada.

Tidal stream energy is on the verge of commercialisation, with a number of 1 MW devices installed at EMEC , in addition to Seagen, the world’s first accredited tidal energy power station, which has delivered more than 9GWh to the national grid.

In 2014 the first 10MW tidal array project, known as MeyGen, obtained financial close and funds have been released to suppliers and contractors to enable construction to commence. MeyGen will consist of up to six tidal turbines deployed in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth. A second 10MW array project in the Sound of Islay has received consent

However UK wave energy companies have made disappointing progress, illustrated by the recent demise of the leading technology developer Pelamis Wave Power and news that the other technology leader Aquamarine Power has reduced the workforce from 50 to a skeleton of less than 20. Nevertheless, foreign companies continue to develop wave energy devices and are happy to use the UK test facilities, see: http://www.emec.org.uk/about-us/wave-clients/ . The berths at Wavehub are fully booked by non-UK wave technology developers and Norway-based Fred Olsen used FaBTest to prove the operational survivability of the BOLT device .

This presentation will consider the challenges faced by the wave and tidal energy sectors, not least those caused by the lack of a long term energy strategy from UK government, and the possible solutions for the UK to exploit this indigenous, carbon-free source of energy.