Deployment of a tidal turbine at the Shetland Tidal Array (Credit: Nova Innovation)

Flagship European tidal energy project provides pathway to significant reduction in tidal energy costs

Published 14 December 2023

A groundbreaking European project, led by one of Scotland’s leading tidal developers, has demonstrated that the cost of tidal energy could potentially be reduced by as much as 40 per cent, and has produced findings that could redefine the boundaries on what can be achieved by tidal power globally.

The €20m EnFAIT (Enabling Future Arrays in Tidal) Horizon 2020 project, brought together the expertise of seven partners including Scottish tidal developer Nova Innovation, who manage the world’s first offshore tidal array – the Shetland Tidal Array, and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, with the objective of lowering the cost of tidal energy. Starting in 2017 and recently completing, the project has delivered cost reduction, innovation and industry learnings over the past six years.

Stephen Wyatt, Director of Strategy and Emerging Technologies at ORE Catapult, said: “The EnFAIT project has provided evidence and knowledge that could change the future of the tidal energy industry. It gives us critical new evidence on the importance of array layout for tidal stream and reminds us of the cost reduction gains to be had from smart project design and configuration.”

During the project, Nova Innovation installed three new 100kW direct-drive turbines and a subsea hub alongside the three existing turbines in the Shetland Tidal Array. For the first time, wake effects between turbines in a real world environment were analysed to identify the optimum spacing between turbines in an array, and the effect this has on energy generation. The data collected has helped to calibrate computer modelling that will be invaluable for future tidal energy projects.

Neil Gray, Cabinet Secretary for Energy in the Scottish Government, said: “With its abundant natural resources and unrivalled experience in marine renewables, Scotland is in a prime position for the development and deployment of tidal stream energy.

“The findings of this exciting project highlight the substantial progress in making tidal an affordable energy source, and I congratulate Nova Innovation for its pioneering work, which contributes to Scotland’s response to the global climate emergency.”

EnFAIT showcased exceptional array performance, highlighting the new turbines’ readiness to generate power for an impressive 95% of the time. The project also demonstrated reliability and cost competitiveness by successfully extending the time between turbine maintenance periods from six months to two and a half years. 

Simon Forrest, CEO of Nova Innovation, added: “EnFAIT has been an incredibly successful project. We have reduced costs by 40%, doubled the size of the world’s first offshore tidal array and extended turbine service intervals to two and a half years; all of which are remarkable achievements. These are crucial steps for building investor confidence and making tidal energy bankable.”  

The project delivered one of the world’s most extensive datasets on the environmental effects of tidal turbines, revealing no evidence of adverse effects on marine wildlife. It also strengthened the local supply chain by using 70% Scottish content and 100% European content across its lifetime, helping to boost economic growth.

The UK is surrounded by tidal energy that could meet 11% of current electricity demand and generate up to £17 billion for the national economy by 2050.

The seven EnFAIT partners from across Europe were Nova Innovation, ORE Catapult, IDETA, RSK, SKF, Wood and The University of Edinburgh. A summary of the project can be viewed here.

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