Making marine dreams come true

It’s great news that a series of recent developments suggest marine hydro kinetic technologies are rapidly reaching maturity as both commercial investors and governments continue to plough cash into the sector.

Lead by Europe, a swathe of new investments announced over the last week or so bolsters the arguement that marine energy is no longer just offering significant new opportunities for hydropower development at some indeterminate future point. There are clear indications that real and concrete efforts to commercialise the various technologies are yielding substantive results.

In the UK, for example, Marine energy developer Minesto in partnership IT Power and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have been awarded more than US$833,800 from the country’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) as part of the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund.

The funding will be used to extend trials of a quarter-scale version of Minesto’s Deep Green device, in the Strangford Lough off Northern Ireland.

“It is truly exciting that DECC realizes the potential for Deep Green to unlock the low velocity tidal current market in the UK,” observed Minesto CEO Anders Jansson.

Similarly, the Scottish government has awarded the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) support through its Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) to further develop an integrated site characterisation and measurement platform for high energy marine environments.

The MRCF Array Technology Innovation Programme will enable EMEC to further develop, test, operate and validate their bespoke Integrated Marine Energy Measurement Platform — a seabed ‘pod’ designed to measure a variety of parameters in tidal flows, such as at EMEC’s Fall of Warness tidal test site, off the island of Eday, in Orkney.

In another development set to move marine hydro kinetic technology forward, Finnish energy company Fortum has signed a lease with the Wave Hub installation off Cornwall in the southwest of the UK for one of the four development bays.

The grid-connected Wave Hub project allows companies to test wave energy devices of up to 10 MW of cumulative capacity.

“This is as much ‘plug-and-play’ as it gets when it comes to wave power generation development,” Fortum Chief Technology Officer Heli Antila said when commenting on the company’s plans to test the Wello Penguin device at the site.

Indeed, speaking at RenewableUK’s wave and tidal energy conference this week, UK Energy and Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker, said: “The UK is seen as the destination for wave and tidal energy and we want to keep it that way.” As the opposition energy minister explained, marine hydrokinetic energy is a “sector with huge potential and massive opportunities, in which we’re seeing considerable progress each year towards commercialisation.”

Of course while the UK is leading the field it is also encouraging to see other players and places also making significant efforts to commercialise these technologies. For example, this last week has also seen Langlee Wave Power and the Tenerife Island Council sign a deal to promote wave energy development off the coast of the Canary Island, part of Spain.

Tenerife’s council has reportedly said it hopes to show wave energy can be a “viable, competitive and efficient alternative to other types of energy currently in use.”

“We have chosen to focus on the Canary Islands as our initial market because of the good wave resources, strong local shipping industry and political support,” Langlee CEO Julius Espedal said.

Langlee projects the first phase of the Tenerife installation will have an output capacity of 132 kW.

The company said it also recently signed a similar agreement with the Lanzarote Island Council to install a 500 kW pilot plant off the north coast of La Santa, which is located east of Tenerife.

There’s no question that vast reserves of energy are available from the world’s seas and oceans and while it’s not clear just how far off true commercial competitiveness for marine hydro is, at the pace of development seen over the last few weeks that dream can’t be far from reality.

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