Renew On Line (UK) 74
|Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 174 July-Aug 2008
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
3. Marine Renewables
Tidal power up
The report from the Governments Renewables Advisory Board (RAB), may have said that progress on wave and tidal current power has been slower than hoped (see Renew 173), but progress is being made nevertheless, especially with tidal current turbines.
With the pioneering 1.2MW SeaGen tidal current energy system installed in N. Ireland’s Strangford Lough, following its construction at Harland and Wolffs yards in Belfast, tidal energy developer Marine Current Turbines Ltd has announced a new round of investment totalling £4.8m. ESB International is the major contributor with an investment of £3m. In Renew 173, we mentioned the proposed 10 MW MCT npower renewables Seagen Wales project off Anglesey as a next step..
A bit further behind in the development path, Trident Energy’s pioneering wave project, is featured in the film on climate change, the 11th Hour, produced and narrated by DiCaprio. It’s in a section looking at different types of renewable energy. Trident plans to carry out a one-year test off the coast of Southwold, Suffolk, with the machine mounted on a platform above the sea, and with moving floats, driven by the waves producing power via a high-efficiency directly coupled linear generator.
Rolls Royce, which has already invested £1.5m, has now taken a 23.5% equity stake in TGL, the Bristol based company working on a deep-water free-stream tidal rotor system. It’s developing 500kW and 1MW demonstrators to assess viability of commercial tidal power arrays.
And Lunar Energy, which has plans for an 8MW project off the west coast of Britain, has signed a landmark £500m deal to create a 300 turbine tidal power field in the Wando Hoenggan waterway off the South Korean coast. A 1MW pilot plant should be in place by March 2009.
In addition, Dutch firm Tocardo Tidal Energy Ltd is to build turbines for a 10MW prototype tidal plant at Wick harbour. All being well, it will then install a chain of commercial units in Pentland firth.
Meanwhile, Pulse Tidal Ltd has got permission to test a 150kW double hydrofoil prototype in the Humber Estuary near Grimsby- off the South bank at Upper Burcom near Stallingborough. It’s an oscillating hyroplane system, with planes that rise and fall with the tidal flow, like EB’s earlier Stingray device, but more rapidly. Designed for shallow water, with the generator unit above the water, it was initially tested at Hull University. Ifithe Humber test is successful, it will be used to develop larger 1MW units which could be deployed in arrays each generating up to 100MW.
Global Japanese trading and investment company Marubeni has joined a group of investors which has pledged a total of £0.58m to support Pulse Tidal. Around £1.1m had already been provided for this project, including a grant under the government’s Technology Programme, and funds from the EU’s European Regional Development Fund delivered through the S. Yorkshire Objective 1 Programme.
But of course nothing yet from the UK Marine Renewables Deployment Fund- since it has not yet cleared the necessary three months of successful operation that this requires. It’s not alone- no other tidal- or wave- project has yet been eligible, although, if all goes well, the MCT project might be.
Gloom from RAB
The RAB report tried to explain why it’s all so slow. It said that:
*Some projects have been developed at scales other than full commercial scale or have developed only partial systems for open sea deployment; the MRDF entry criteria does not recognise this.
*There has been over optimism in the industry, and some developers have been burdened or distracted by outside factors such as permits and environmental assessments.
* BERR R&D projects have not delivered the extended continuous deployment of full-scale prototypes that their project plans promised. This is primarily because project costs have proven to be much higher than expected and timescales longer, leading to a reduction in resources available to complete the anticipated testing.
*The processes of allocating government grant funding to R&D projects is not always as flexible as it might need to be, particularly when unforeseen problems, delays or cost over- runs occur. Really!?
The RAB commented ‘initial R&D is taking much longer than originally envisaged, is not delivering the technologies for the MRDF but, importantly, neither is it producing high quality research results on the current performance and costs of wave and tidal stream power. The published R&D results, including from a number of prototype marine renewable energy technologies, have not established with confidence the current cost of energy from wave and tidal stream power. Neither have they provided an understanding of their long-term commercial prospects nor identified a route to achieving the improvements needed for marine energy to make a material contribution to the UK’s energy needs.’
However it still felt able to say that ‘it has become apparent that, in common with other offshore renewables, the cost of wave power today is greater than when the MRDF was first devised in 2004’.
It concluded ‘We are aware that our report might be seen as indicating that the long-term commercial prospects for wave and tidal stream are poorer than has been previously thought. That would not, in our view, be the correct interpretation. As already pointed out above, with the data that exists today, it is simply not possible to give a definitive analysis of the long-term commercial prospects for these technologies.’
RAB does try to be upbeat about the future, saying that successful projects should be coming through soon, and pointing out that the UK was still seen as the leader in the field- with plenty of R&D funding available: see the chart above. To make that point stronger (perhaps!) and to explain the chart, they report that some rivals have given up. They note that until 2001 Denmark had an active wave energy programme, which assessed 40 new wave power concepts. Nine were advanced to the next stage of more detailed design and testing. But ‘following a change of Government in 2001 all renewable energy R&D funding was stopped, including the wave energy programme. Since then, there have been other new and renewable energy projects funded under the Danish Energy Authority’s Energy Research Programme (ERP) but so far none have been on marine renewable energy.’ They add that ‘in 2001 Japan’s Mighty Whale project came to an end and following a review of its results the Japanese government decided not to support further work on this project’.
So, after a slow start, and assuming things speed up, we now have a clear run of the field! Well, lets hope so, although the US is now getting into the area. But there is nothing wrong with a bit of competition- and there is plenty of sea!
RAB are clearly worried about the lack of price reductions and uncertainty over future costs. The Carbon Trusts argument has been that prices should fall as the technologies move down their learning curves. See the chart above. You wouldn’t expect quick moves and it seems too early in the process to cry off. So perhaps RAB is unnecessarily gloomy...
One of it’s main concerns actually seemed to be that the government funding schemes- the Marine Renewable Deployment Fund and the Renewables Obligation- might not be right. But it seems to have convinced itself that all will be well, given time. Let’s hope so. Some say a REFIT system would have been wiser than the RO... see Renew 172.
The battle over the proposed giant 8.6GW Severn Tidal Barrage continues. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says it’s not ‘necessary for the UK to meet either its carbon emission reduction targets or electricity needs from renewable energy. We uphold the principle, fully endorsed in the SDC report, that climate change measures should not, and need not, override the protection of important biodiversity: more sustainable alternative measures, that do not harm the environment, are readily available.’ The RSPB has also opposed the recently proposed 1GW rated £2m barrage 11 miles across the Wash: see http://www.washbarrier.org
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