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Time and Tide...

Tides are more predictable than the wind and the sun.  So why isn't tidal power widely used to generate electricity?  Because tidal energy has traditionally suffered from relatively high cost and limited availability of sites with sufficient force.  Tidal power has met resistance due to the expensive upfront costs and the concerns about whether the technology is sound and environmentally safe.  However, recent developments are changing the tide.  Several companies are proving successful with various approaches to tidal power.

Simec Atlantis Energy received a grant for almost £900,000 to put toward the next phase of their project.   The international energy company says they will “enhance” the six megawatt (MW) MeyGen project, while also beefing up the development of at least two more of its 2MW turbines. The AR1500 turbine installed at the MeyGen project in 2017 marked the first commercial scale turbine installed in a tidal array. Next, Simec Atlantis will address the issue of expense by focusing on more cost effective turbines.

Orbital Marine Power has signed an agreement to demonstrate its floating tidal technology at the Morlais Tidal Energy Project off the coast of Wales.  Orbital said it believed its turbine would be the "most powerful tidal generating turbine in the world," with each unit able to produce electricity equivalent to the needs of 1,500 typical homes in the U.K.  "The Morlais project gives us line of sight to a commercial and scalable tidal energy array in U.K. waters," Andrew Scott, the CEO of Orbital Marine Power, said in a statement on Monday.

These developments in tidal power should be encouraging news for the Swansea Bay tidal project.  Despite previous setbacks, the Swansea Council has shown their support and advertised for private sector partners to help develop the energy project in Swansea Bay.  The proposal has been revised to focus on Swansea only instead of a network of lagoons around the coast.  It will also annually generate a smaller amount of electricity than what was originally proposed by Tidal Lagoon Power.  These practical changes should provide a quicker return on investments.  It is now a Welsh project without the need of UK government involvement and will operate without subsidy. The advert from Swansea Council for expressions of interest is on the Welsh Government's Sell2Wales website with a 7 December closing date.

Content Discussion

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on December 6, 2018

I remain hopeful that tidal energy can play at least a small part in the clean energy future, but it seems like as much money is poured into it that we don't really get out the return. It could just be that the tech isn't there, and I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be the one who gave up on solar 20 years ago so I'll continue to be optimistic here. But I think the best-case scenario is likely comparable to geothermal-- applicable and great in the places where it's feasible, but not going to be a huge slice of the overall clean energy pie when all is said and done

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