Renewable Power Generation - 2010 figures

David Hopwood

Special report. Part eight: Ocean and tidal power transition continues...

About the article: This special Renewable Energy Focus power generation focus previews REMIPEG's latest update, carried out in the first four months of 2011 by Lahmeyer International, and presents an overview for each renewable power sector, based on scenarios up to the end of 2010.

This article is taken from the July/August issue of Renewable Energy Focus (REFocus) magazine. For a free subscription, click here.

WHILE 2010 was expected to be a groundbreaking year for projects moving to commercial demonstration scale within the ocean and tidal power market, the transition stage (of moving from laboratory research facilities and prototyping, to larger scale devices) still prevails. Many estimate that it will be another five to 10 years before commercialisation can hope to take place.

Nevertheless, many companies and developers are preparing for extensive testing of commercial demonstration projects or pilot plants, while advanced ventures have entered regular operation.

Apart from the need to improve the devices technically and reduce installation costs, project development faces the same constraints that the offshore wind industry suffered some years ago; namely the uncertainty of the resource assessment (due to the lack of a mature measurement network), and lack of information on the impact that ocean devices have on marine life - something which can significantly delay the approval and permitting process.

However, the potential of these technologies – as much as several thousand Terawatt hours per year – is too alluring to be neglected for much longer, especially with many countries investing heavily in renewable energy sources. The potential and recent progress in device development has lead the industry into the early stages of commercialisation – courtesy of the first movers. And European project developers have announced 2020 installed capacity targets of around 2 GW.

One of the challenges faced by ocean and tidal technologies is the high dependency on finance, especially because of the high initial costs incurred at the development stage. In addition, licensing and permitting is complex, as are grid-connection issues – creating problems similar to those that other offshore technologies face.

This has put some organisations off. RWE for example recently announced it is to pull out of a Wave energy project - Siadar (a 4MW development in Scotland using an oscillating column device from Wavegen, part of Voith Hydro).

Summary of the ocean and tidal energy market, data as of the end of 2010 
  Cumulated installed capacity 2010 (GW) Newly installed capacity 2010 (GW) Estimated electricity generation 2010 (TWh/year)
Europe <0.26 0 <0.6
North America <0.04 0 <0.1
South America 0 0 0
Asia 0 0 0
Africa 0 0 0
Oceania 0
World total <0.3 0  <0.7

However, despite setbacks, the industry has moved forward, especially given establishments like the European Marine Energy Research Centre (EMEC), which helps developers test devices and prototypes. Atlantis Resources Corporation for example, successfully raised £3.7 million from existing shareholders to test the AK1000 turbine at EMEC in Orkney. The turbine has an output of 1 MW, which puts it on the list of the largest tidal turbines.

Voith Hydro recently announced the development of one of the largest tidal power plants in Korea. This key project will be able to power around 100,000 homes with an output of 150 MW. The Seaturtle Tidal Park will also serve as a flagship project in proving the feasibility of the technology.

One system developed by Verdant Power (pictured) also uses a three-bladed horizontal-axis turbine, which is then submerged and installed underwater to generate electricity from tidal and river currents. During the demonstration phase in the East River, New York, the system provided 70 MWh to the grid, “without power quality problems”.

SeaGen turbines, of which one has been operational since 2008 as an experimental tidal energy convertor, will now be installed by Marine Current Turbines and RWE npower renewables in a tidal power array off Anglesey. A company called SeaGeneration Wales has been founded by the two partners to develop the project. The array of 7 twin rotor turbines aims to capture 10% of the tidal energy, and plans to produce up to 10 MW. The company estimates that about £70 million will be invested until its completion in 2015.

Hammerfest Strøm, a long time contributor to tidal energy development, is now operating out of Scotland, and recently received funding for trials of its 1 MW turbine prototype at EMEC [Ed update, Jan 2011 the company has now installed its 1 MW HS1000 tidal turbine 100 feet under water at EMEC].

Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), a wave energy technology company, announced an investment of about US$6 million, which will help build the company's PowerBuoy, and also fund its installation off the coast. If testing goes according to plan, OPT has said it will construct the first commercial-scale wave power site – with a total of 10 PowerBuoys – off the coast of Oregon.

The pilot plant Oscillating Water Column (OWC) operated by Wave Energy Center on Pico, Azores, has continued to feed increasing amounts of electricity into the grid - more than 1,400 operational hours in 2010. Just above 45 MWh has been generated during that time, an enormous increase from earlier years. The 400 kW site provides a platform to aid the technology's development.

A large number of countries are currently looking into marine renewable energy technologies. Some notable examples would be Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. – which are deploying devices; whereas Belgium, Germany, Mexico, and South Africa are funding research programs, or supporting the device manufacturers as component suppliers.

On the traditional large-hydro-like tidal barrier front, the construction of the 254 MW rated Sihwa lake tidal barrage in South Korea is expected to enter into operation during 2011.

Summarising all of the above, the total installed power and estimated annual electricity generation in 2010 remained the same, compared to 2009 (see table).

Renewable Power Generation 2010: see conclusion here.

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