3. Wave & tidal projects
Slow Ahead Both
Secretary of State for Trade & Industry Alistair Darling was pressed
in the Commons recently on progress with the DTIs £50m marine
renewables deployment fund, which was established last year to assist
the continued development of wave/tidal stream energy technologies.
Alistair Carmichael, Orkney and Shetland’s Lib Dem MP, noted that,
‘since the fund was opened for applications in February last year,
it has received only two applications, both of which were rejected.
Does he share my concern that the fund might not be as effective as
we would both wish in retaining the world lead in the development of
marine renewables? Now that a year has passed, will he review the access
criteria for funding applications, with a view to introducing more flexibility
in the fund in order to allow more companies to get more devices into
Darling responded: ‘I am worried that there have been only two
applications. The difficulty is that in order to qualify for the grant,
a project has to have been operating in the sea for three months. In
other words, the idea was to help projects that had significantly proved
themselves to be a real possibility for development. There are other
grants around, however, to help with development at a far earlier stage.
I am reluctant to reopen this matter, because it is important that we
encourage projects that have a real chance of success. If it appears
that no projects have reached that stage, however, perhaps we ought
to look at some other form of assistance. The hon. Gentleman and I both
agree that marine generation of electricity is important, and there
are good examples of such work being carried out in his own constituency.
The reason why this grant is difficult to get is that it sets quite
high criteria for eligibility’.
Neither mentioned the Scottish Executives unilateral move to provide
£13m in grants and also support from a new Marine Supply Obligation,
which might actually move things along. Certainly ( see below) new tidal
current projects are pushing ahead.
There is a lot happening in the tidal current turbine field at present.
For example, E.ON AG and Lunar Energy have issued a joint statement
saying they plan to build tidal power generators off the west coast
of England with a total generating capacity of 8 MW. The ducted turbine
system is scheduled to go online by 2010. Paul Golby, head of E.ON UK
said ‘A tidal stream scheme on this scale, which will be one of
the largest of its kind in the world, will allow us to both better understand
how to harness the power of the tides and, just as importantly, to develop
a new way of generating clean, reliable and plentiful power’.
Meanwhile the Open Hydro Group has announced the signing of a major
agreement with Alderney Renewable Energy Ltd for the supply of tidal
turbines using the Open Centre Turbine, which has already been tested
at the EMEC on the Orkneys. The turbines are expected to be deployed
in 2008/2009. The tidal flows around Alderney are some of the strongest
in the world: it’s been estimated that fully developed, the area
could have 3GW generation capacity.
Open Hydro have also won a contract from Nova Scotia Power to install
the system in the Bay of Funday, Canada, with the system expected to
be in operation by 2009. In addition, as noted in Renew 167, it has
been allocated £1.2m from the Scottish Executive for tests on
a 250kW unit at EUMEC. See our Feature and Technology sections for more
tidal- and wave-project news.
Marine White Paper
Overshadowed a bit by the Energy White paper, the Marine Bill White
paper, which emerged in March, outlines a radical new approach to protecting
and using the marine environment and outlines ways in which offshore
wind, wave and tidal power projects can be developed while still protecting
wildlife, as part of the fight against global warming.
The proposals include:
• a new UK-wide system of marine planning
• a streamlined, transparent and consistent system for
licensing marine developments
• a new mechanism to protect marine biodiversity, including
marine protected areas
• improvements to the management of marine fisheries
• the creation of the Marine Management Organisation
(MMO) to join up the approach to the marine environment.
Environment Secretary David Miliband, said: ‘Protecting our
seas is one of the biggest environmental challenges after climate
change and the two are closely linked. The proposals in the Marine
Bill White Paper are a first for the UK and would raise planning for
the management and protection of our seas to a world-leading level.
This White Paper gives people the chance to help the Government do
what is needed to effectively balance all of our marine needs and
demands, and to achieve our vision for a clean, healthy, safe, productive,
and biologically diverse marine environment.’
Marine Aims The Government says that its strategic goals for the marine
environment are to:
a. conserve and enhance the overall quality of our seas, their natural
processes and their biodiversity;
b. use marine resources in a sustainable, environmentally sensitive
manner in order to conserve ecosystems and achieve optimum environmental,
social & economic benefits ;
c. promote & encourage environmentally sustainable use of natural
resources to ensure long-term economic benefits and sustainable employment;
d. increase our understanding of the marine environment, its natural
processes and our cultural marine heritage and the impact that human
activities have upon them;
e. promote public awareness, understanding and appreciation of the
value of the marine environment and seek active public participation
in the development of new policies.
Implications for Renewables
Renewable energy projects are of course only one issue for the Bill.
It also looks at fishery protection, coastal flood protection and many
other issues. However, there is clearly a need to regulate the development
of marine renewables- the pressure is on. Marine minister Ben Bradshaw
told the British Wind Energy Association’s 4th annual marine energy
conference that the government wanted more and faster offshore energy
developments. ‘The sea is one of the major resources in the UK.
It has the potential to supply a very significant part of our renewable
energy needs. We need to push harder on wave and tidal power. The wind
may not always blow, but the tides are always strong and regular.’
Some commentators worry that there might be a ‘sea rush’,
as developers find it easier to get licenses for offshore wind, wave
and tidal projects, but equally, as argued in Renew 143, some of these
projects could actually be integrated into fishery and marine protection