Wave & tidal innovation challenges

The opportunity: With the wave and tidal sectors both in their relative infancy, the opportunities to become a ‘first mover’ in the supply chain are abundant as developers look for cost reduction opportunities through innovation.

2015 was a major step forward for the tidal stream sector as the first multi-device array projects commenced construction in France and the UK. Paimpol-Bréhat in France comprises 4 x 2MW turbines and is estimated to cost €40 million to build.  The MeyGen Phase 1A project is a 6MW project (4 x 1.5MW turbines). The 5.6MW Raz Blanchard project will begin in 2017.

The market: Wave and tidal energy is still in its early stages of development and its contribution to global energy production is not yet significant. Nevertheless, the resource is abundant and well distributed around the world, in many cases close to high energy demand in coastal areas. The sector has the potential to make a significant contribution in securing our electricity supply by 2050.  The UK is currently the global leader in marine energy, with around 10MW of wave and tidal stream devices being tested in UK waters, more than the rest of the world combined. Scotland alone is reported to have 25% of Europe’s tidal energy potential. The test sites at EMEC in Orkney, Wavehub in Cornwall and the Flowave test facility at the University of Edinburgh and are world-leading test facilities that complement ORE Catapult’s representative drivetrain and dock facilities in Blyth.

  • Tidal: The tidal stream sector has made significant progress in recent years and has recently moved from single device demonstration projects to the first multiple device arrays in the UK and France. This is a major step towards the commercialisation of the sector. 2016 has seen the installation of Nova Innovation’s tidal array in Shetland and construction is well underway on the MeyGen Phase 1A project in the Pentland Firth.
  • Wave: The wave sector is still in the demonstration phase, where new designs are being put to the reliability/survivability test.  The sector was given a boost in the last year with the establishment of Wave Energy Scotland (WES), who have awarded over £7m to technology developers and consortia.  The focussed approach of WES has seen developments in PTOs novel wave energy converters.

Market Forecast: Much larger sites are planned as device developers prove their technology in small arrays prior to scaling up to 10s or event 100s of MW capacity tidal stream arrays. The total MeyGen site has capacity for 398MW, a £400 million 100MW project is also planned off Fair Head in Northern Ireland, and large projects are also in the pipeline in Canada (the Cape Sharp project starts with 4MW and moves up to 16MW in 2017 and 300MW in the 2020’s).

A number of large tidal lagoon development projects are being proposed in the UK, which, if given the go ahead, would represent around 4300MW of power and £10 billion of capital investment. Much of this hinges on the ongoing UK government review of the technology and the required subsidy level for these long-term infrastructure projects.

Wave energy is still at the pre-commercial single device demonstration project stage, with a number of new technologies coming through. Device developers will be looking to prove their technologies in multi device arrays.

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