'Enormous potential': Britain's tidal power sector gears up for a big few years

  • Companies and projects announce new developments in their plans to roll out projects and tech.
  • Interest in marine-based energy systems appears to be growing, but the current footprint of the industry and its technologies remains small.

Britain's emerging tidal power sector took a number of steps forward this week, with companies and projects announcing new developments in their plans to roll out projects and technology.

On Thursday, Scottish firm Nova Innovation said it had secured 2.5 million euros ($2.83 million) from the European Innovation Council Accelerator Fund to finance its Upscaling Tidal Energy Manufacturing and Production Output project.

The UpTEMPO project is centered around the design, manufacture and demonstration of an "enhanced version" of the company's 100 kilowatt tidal turbine.

In an announcement, the firm said the 200 kilowatt iteration would use blade pitch control to increase "the amount of power and energy generated." In addition, its turbine body will be more compact, helping to cut both its weight and cost.

Nova's CEO, Simon Forrest, said the turbine would "be designed to meet the needs of utility clients in our target markets around the world."

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Nova Innovation's announcement came in the same week that planning permission was granted for the "onshore elements" of a 30 megawatt tidal energy project planned for the Isle of Wight, an island located in waters off the south coast of England.

The approval, from Isle of Wight Council, relates to the building of a substation. In a statement, the Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre said all the consents were in place to move forward with its plans for what it described as "England's first multi megawatt tidal stream power generation project."

Rob Stevens, who is chairman of PTEC, said gaining permission for the onshore elements of the project was of "national importance."

"Tidal energy is now a proven route to continuous, clean energy generation and has enormous potential," he said. Onshore construction for PTEC is slated to start in 2023, with completion scheduled for 2025.

Alongside the above developments, Natural Resources Wales said Tuesday that a marine license had been issued for the Morlais tidal demonstration project.

"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]," NRW said.

On Monday, the U.K. government opened up the latest round of its renewable energy auction initiative, which aims to provide £285 million of funding per year for what it calls "low-carbon technology."

Tidal stream projects have been allocated funding of £20 million per year, a figure which was announced toward the end of November.

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At the time Kwasi Kwarteng, who is Britain's business and energy secretary, said the investment provided "a major push for tidal power to become a key part of the next generation of renewable electricity projects needed to strengthen energy security as we work to reduce our dependency on volatile fossil fuels."

While interest in marine-based energy systems appears to be growing, the current footprint of the industry and its technologies remains small.

Figures from Ocean Energy Europe show that only 260 kilowatts of tidal stream capacity was added in Europe last year, while just 200 kW of wave energy was installed.

By contrast, 2020 saw 14.7 gigawatts of wind energy capacity installed in Europe, according to industry body WindEurope.

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