Surge in big name activity for the ocean and tidal sector
About the article: This special Renewable Energy Focus power generation focus previews REMIPEG's latest update, carried out in the first four months of 2012 by Lahmeyer International, and presents an overview for each renewable power sector, based on scenarios up to the end of 2011.
This article is taken from the July/August 2012 issue of Renewable Energy Focus (REFocus) magazine. For a free subscription, click here.
Part eight – Wave and Tidal
The amount of ocean energy technology generating capacity installed globally more than doubled to reach 526.70MW by end 2011 (see table). The growth, however, was largely down to one project: the 254MW tidal barrier project at Sihwa Lake, South Korea. Besides that, just 3.35MW was installed in 2011.
While low when compared to other renewable energy technologies, it is still nonetheless significant when you consider that no new capacity was installed the previous year. Add to that the 14.5-17.5MW of new capacity currently under construction or being installed, it is then fair to say the last 12 months has been a positive period for the sector.
Marine and tidal energy still remains heavily focused on research & development (R&D) activities and small-scale demonstration projects. Just a few technologies have or are moving to the key large-scale demonstration phase, prior to full market commercialisation.
Financing comes largely from public R&D programmes still, although there has been a growing volume of venture and seed capital coming into the mix. Noticeably, the number of big-name major construction firms and energy technology manufacturers showing a serious interest has increased.
Germany's Siemens, for example, now fully owns Scottish tidal power development company Marine Current Turbines (MCT). It first supported MCT by becoming an investor back in 2010, increasing its share to 45% in 2011. The full takeover took place earlier this year and MCT now operates as a business under the Siemens Solar & Hydro Division.
With the deal mirroring the similar transitioning of WaveGen (another Scottish firm) into a VoithHydro business (and subsequently renamed Voith Hydro Wavegen) some five years ago, the Siemens/MCT deal clearly underlines the ongoing interest of bigger energy players in the more promising technologies, at a more advanced stage of development, in the ocean and tidal sector.
It's encouraging for the industry, especially as a similar trend of big name companies and utilities entering the fray can be seen when it comes to specific project development. Spanish EPC company, Abengoa, entered into collaboration with Irish wave energy conversion device developer Wavebob, for example. The two plan to develop and commercialise the Irish firm's buoy-based generator, with a view to deploying it in wave farms across Europe and the US.
Another electronics giant, Alstom, is a step ahead. The French firm has entered into a joint venture with SSE Renewables, the renewables division of UK utility SSE. The joint venture will develop a wave energy project, using technology from AWS Ocean Energy, at Costa Head off Orkney Island. AWS successfully tested its floating device in Loch Ness in 2010 and the 2.5MW AWS-III wave energy converter is scheduled for full-scale prototype deployment at EMEC in 2014. The Alstom/SSE joint venture wave project will be up to 200MW in capacity.
A number of projects led by large utilities (including E.On, Scottish Power and Vattenfall) will use the “sea snake” Pelamis from Pelamis Wave Power. Meantime, the 2009 Pelamis installation off Portugal's coast at Agucadoura has been decommissioned ahead of plans to repower the project with a technology upgrade.
In Denmark, the Wave Dragon team received funding for the first phase of its 1.5MW demonstrator project. The funding, which came via the Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Programme, will help meet the costs of the project feasibility study and the certified design of the device.
In France there was significant progress, with three ocean energy demonstration projects selected by the French agency for the energy and environment, ADEME, to proceed: the SABELLA D10 tidal project, the ORCA tidal project at Paimpol Bréhat and SBM Offshore's S3 wave energy converter. Ireland's OpenHydro, meantime, announced it was in final stages of preparation for launch in Brittany, France, where it plans to deploy four of its open centre 2MW tidal turbines at Paimpol Bréhat in cooperation with the French company EDF. OpenHydro is also working on projects in the UK's Channel Islands and in Nova Scotia.
In 2011, final consents and authorisations for the construction of the SEM-REV French wave energy test site, north of Le Croisic peninsula, were also secured. The works are planned for completion by September 2012, when full electrical connection should be ensured. The final capacity of the project is 8MVA.
In terms of project and technology development progress, other notable events include:
– The Mutriku wave energy plant in Spain came online in 2011. The 300 kW facility consists of 16 Wells turbines driven by Voith Hydro Wavegen's oscillating wave columns and is the first commercial implementation of the technology.
– Verdant Power gained approval for the third phase of its RITE project tapping into the tidal currents of New York's East River with a vertical turbine. After successfully completing the demonstration phase, the developer is now able to deploy a 1MW device in the river. Another project using the same technology is under development in the St. Lawrence River where river currents, only, shall be used.
UK lead continues
Meantime, the UK remains dominant in both development and commercialisation of technologies and projects, with activity in Scotland moving full steam ahead. The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney was the focus for much of the action. Key developments in the UK in 2011 were:
– The Scottish Energy Laboratory (SEL) was launched in September to strengthen collaboration among all 50 energy research, test, and demonstration facilities, including EMEC.
Rolls Royce announced its subsidiary, Tidal Generation Ltd., had reached the milestone of feeding over 100MWh into the national grid from its 500 k tidal turbine at EMEC.
– Atlantis Resources' 1MW AK1000 tidal turbine was also launched at EMEC. Proposed projects for the turbine include the 400MW MeyGen project in Pentland Firth, anticipating completion by 2020, and a 50 MW project off the coast of Gujarat, India, with agreement on as much as 250MW for future development.
– In late 2011, Norway's Hammerfest Strøm installed its 1MW HS1000 tidal turbine at EMEC, expecting it to be fully operational in 2012. Scottish Power Renewables (a subsidiary of Spanish utility Iberdrola) plans to use this turbine in a 10MW tidal array in the Sound of Islay, aiming for installation between 2013 and 2015.
– Ocean Power Technologies started ocean trials for its 150kW PB150 PowerBuoy wave energy device
Aquamarine's new Oyster 800 wave energy converter was also deployed at EMEC – it will be followed in 2012 and 2013 by two more devices to form a 2.4 MW array.
2011 saw Korea enter the scene
The 254MW Sihwa Lake tidal project, which came online last year, is expected to be the first of six tidal power plants along South Korea's west coast, driven by the country's aggressive push for “green growth” and its adoption of a renewable portfolio standard in 2010. Two other projects (totaling 1.84GW) have been delayed, with the first expecting completion in 2015.
The Sihwa Plant was conceived to be restorative to Sihwa Lake, which had been polluted by sewage. Other major projects along the west coast have met significant resistance on grounds of potential ecological disruption.
Meantime, the country's Hyundai Heavy Industries, a major shipbuilder now active in renewables including wind and tidal, completed trials of a 500kW bidirectional tidal current power system. It expects to complete a “megawatt-class” tidal power farm with other Korean companies by 2014.
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