Tidal power is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade as several countries boost investments in the renewable energy source. As Scotland secures funding for a huge new project, Canada expects to start operations in 2022. While financing is an issue, due to high set-up and operational costs, other countries could also start to establish tidal projects if early developments are seen to be a success. Scottish firm Nova Innovation has secured a $2.83 million investment from the European Innovation Council Accelerator Fund for its planned Upscaling Tidal Energy Manufacturing and Production Output project. Nova aims to construct a 200-kilowatt tidal turbine that is more compact, reducing both the weight and cost of the machinery.
The company was also granted planning permission for a 30-megawatt tidal development in the U.K.’s Isle of White this month. Work on the Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre (PTEC) will commence in 2023 to be completed by 2025. It is expected to be “England’s first multi-megawatt tidal stream power generation project.”
Nova hopes to carry out a third project in Wales - the Morlais tidal demonstration project. Natural Resources Wales stated, “The project is for the installation and commercial demonstration of multiple tidal energy devices and will provide an area for the offshore development of renewable energy sources across 35km2 to the west of Anglesey [in Wales].”
As part of the U.K. government’s renewable energy strategy, it has earmarked almost $26.7 million a year in funding for tidal power. This brings the total annual national investment via its renewable energy auction scheme to $380 million. This funding will contribute towards Britain’s goal of cutting carbon emissions by 78 percent by 2035 and eventually achieving net-zero by 2050. The government hopes this will help develop the tidal industry as well as create new jobs across the country.
In Canada, Sustainable Marine hopes to have its new tidal project up and running by 2022. Having constructed an onshore electrical substation in Nova Scotia, it plans to use the PLAT-I tidal energy platform to harness the power of some of the world’s highest tides to provide energy to the grid next year. It will be the first floating tidal platform to connect directly into the power grid.
The company also made a multi-million-dollar investment in the Tidal Pioneer in the region, marine operations support vessel. Sustainable Marine plans to carry out an extensive monitoring and evaluation program to see what impact the new project has on marine life in the region. It hopes to use Nova Scotia’s natural resources to develop the province’s renewable energy sector.
Other countries have also shown interest in future tidal energy developments but are put off by the high setup and operational costs involved. India has the opportunity to become a major tidal energy generator, with an estimated 54 gigawatts (GW) of potential ocean energy, but has not yet carried out tests to explore the practically exploitable potential.
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India has long considered the potential of its tidal power. However, after starting two projects - a 3.75-megawatt project in West Bengal in 2007 and a 50-megawatt development in Gujarat in 2011 – it decided costs were simply too high to continue. But now the government is suggesting that these costs need to be reevaluated due to innovations in technology and machinery, to be compared effectively to other renewable energy projects such as solar and wind power production.
So, is now the time to invest? Those working in the sector point out that tidal energy seems to have been generally overlooked when thinking about how to develop the renewable energy sector. At present, there are around 60 megawatts of wave and tidal energy installations worldwide, largely due to high prices and competitive alternatives. A scientific analysis of the current cost of tidal power operations suggests that costs need to be reduced from $320 per MWh to below $200 per MWh to make this a viable energy option.
Another U.K. company, Orbital Marine, hopes its 72-meter submarine-esque O2 tidal turbine will provide the learning stage needed to attract greater interest in the sector. The company hopes the use of innovative technology will help to reduce project costs, aiming to attract greater funding for future projects.
With the potential for tidal power to provide a tenth of the U.K.’s energy, is it money worth spending? Dan McGrail, CEO of Renewable UK explains, “we need a range of renewable technologies to get us to net zero as fast as possible.” Further, “as an island nation with superb tidal energy resources to harness, it is clear that tidal stream should have a key role to play in our shift to clean energy.”
While Scotland and Canada become pioneers in tidal energy technology, the rest of the world is sitting and waiting to see if these investments pay off. Harnessing the power of a greater range of natural resources, without contributing to environmental degradation, will help countries achieve carbon reduction targets. But the high cost involved in something largely unknown has, so far, put many governments off.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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