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MendoCoastCurrent, July 26, 2010

The Technology Strategy Board funding follows the support given earlier this month to AWS Ocean Energy by the Scottish Government’s WATERS programme (Wave and Tidal Energy: Research, Development and Demonstration Support).

Funding will further develop AWS Ocean Energy’s AWS-III, a ring-shaped multi-cell surface-floating wave power system.

The funding from the Technology Strategy Board is part of a £7m million funding package awarded to 9 wave and tidal stream research and development projects.

Simon Grey, Chief Executive of AWS Ocean Energy, says: “This latest funding is very welcome as we continue to develop our AWS-III wave energy device.

“Our trials on Loch Ness will restart in September for a 6 week period and thereafter a detailed assessment of the trial results will be undertaken before we start building and then deploy a full-scale version of one of the wave absorption cells.”

A single utility-scale AWS-III, measuring around 60 m in diameter, will be capable of generating up to 2.5 MW of continuous power.

AWS Ocean Energy says it is seeking industrial and utility partners to enable the launching of a 12-cell, 2.5 MW pre-commercial demonstrator in 2012 and subsequent commercialisation of the technology.

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The Engineer UK, July 6 2010

Aquamarine Power and AWS Ocean Energy today secured approximately £4.39m to continue development of their wave energy devices.

The WATERS fund (Wave and Tidal Energy: Research, Development and Demonstration Support) has provided Aquamarine Power with more than £3m to develop its 2.4MW Oyster demonstration project in Scotland while AWS Ocean Energy received £1.39m to develop its AWS-III surface-floating wave power device.

Phased installation of the Oyster 2 project will begin at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney in Summer 2011. In-depth coverage of Oyster from The Engineer’s 2009 Awards Supplement can be read here.

The Oyster demonstration project will consist of three 800kW hinged flaps, each measuring 26m by 16m. The flaps are moved by the motion of near shore waves, which in turn drive two hydraulic pistons that push high-pressure water onshore to drive a conventional hydro-electric turbine.

Oyster 2 Wave Energy Converter

Aquamarine Power claims each flap will deliver 250 per cent more power than the original Oyster prototype, which was successfully deployed at EMEC in 2009.

The three devices will be linked to a single onshore 2.4MW hydro-electric turbine. The new devices incorporate modifications that are expected to facilitate the production of more energy, be simpler to install and easier to maintain.

AWS Ocean Energy will use its funding to further develop the AWS-III device, a ring-shaped, multi-cell, surface-floating wave power system.

It is claimed that a single utility-scale AWS-III, measuring around 60m in diameter, will be capable of generating up to 2.5MW of continuous power.

Scale testing of the AWS-III on Loch Ness is currently being carried out to provide design data and confirm the AWS-III’s commercial potential.

The £15m WATERS scheme, which is run and administered by Scottish Enterprise, has been designed to support the construction and installation of pre-commercial full-scale wave and tidal stream device prototypes in Scottish waters.

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BBC News, June 11, 2010

A renewable energy company has gone “back to the future” to develop a device to harness power from waves.

AWS Ocean Energy chief executive Simon Grey said its prototype AWS-III on Loch Ness had evolved from “forgotten” technology first seen in 1985.

He said the device could eventually be used in the Northern Isles.

The technology was also tested on Loch Ness in the 1980s, but the Conservative government of the time suspended the wave energy programme.

Highlands Liberal Democrat MP and chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has visited the test site.

He said the progress being made by the company was impressive.

Mr Grey said Inverness-based AWS Ocean Energy was exploring the idea of a machine which had rubber rather than steel components.

Further research led to staff uncovering the similar concept from the 1980s.

He said: “We discovered that the work done in 1985 was rated as the most promising by the Department of Energy at the time.

“We have since taken that design and evolved it further so it is more cost effective in terms of producing power.”

EIGHTIES REVISITED

  • AWS Ocean Energy is updating technology first tested in 1985
  • The Conservatives were also in government at the time
  • Government was funding “green” energy projects then as it is today
  • The film Back to the Future was released in 1985

Mr Grey said the wave energy programme in the 1980s was fully funded by the UK government but the work was later suspended.

He said: “When interest in wave energy re-emerged people assumed that because it hadn’t happened in the past then those ideas wouldn’t work and they had to find new ideas.”

The chief executive said AWS-III was a re-working of a concept people had “forgotten about”.

The ring-shaped machine on Loch Ness is one tenth of the size of the device that could eventually be generating electricity on a commercial scale.

Full-scale machines could be deployed in the sea around Orkney and Shetland following further tests in 2012.

Investment of £2.3m was secured from the Scottish government to develop the AWS-III.

In 2008, AWS Ocean Energy said it had set its sights on winning the world’s largest prize for marine energy innovation.

It said it planned to double its workforce in 12 months, in part to improve its chances of securing the Scottish government’s Saltire Prize.

Following a visit to the test site on Loch Ness, Mr Alexander said: “Power from our seas can make a significant contribution to our energy security and the future of our environment.”

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GAYATHRI VAIDYANATHAN, New York Times, March 2, 2010

Harnessing the ocean waves for emission-free power seems like a tidy concept, but the ocean is anything but tidy. Waves crash from multiple directions on a seemingly random basis, and converting the kinetic energy into electricity is a frontier of alternative energy research that requires grappling with large unknowns.

But with several utility companies and states, and in one case, the U.S. Navy, investing in wave power, or hydrokinetic energy, may not be too far off in the utility mix. At least two companies hope to reach commercial deployments within the next three to five years.

Off the coast of Orkney, Scotland, is the Oyster, a white- and yellow-flapped cylinder, 40 feet tall and firmly locked into the ocean’s bed. With a total of seven moving parts, two of which are pistons, it captures waves as they near the coast. Oyster funnels them into a pipe and carries the power inland to a hydroelectric power generator. The generator has been supplying the United Kingdom’s grid with 315 kilowatts of energy at peak power since October.

A farm of up to 100 Oysters could yield 100 megawatts, according to Aquamarine Power, the Scottish company that developed the technology.

“From an environmental perspective, in the sea you have a very simple machine that uses no oil, no chemicals, no electromagnetic radiation,” said Martin McAdam, CEO of Aquamarine.

The Oyster provides a tiny fraction of the 250 gigawatts of power that the water is capable of providing, including conventional hydroelectric energy by 2030, according to the United Nations. At least 25 gigawatts of that will come from marine renewables, according to Pike Research, a clean technology market research group. The non-conservative estimate is as much as 200 gigawatts. And 2015 will be the benchmark year to determine which of these estimates will be true.

The field of hydrokinetic power has a number of companies such as Aquamarine, all with unique designs and funded by utility companies, government grants and venture capitalists. If at least 50% of these projects come online by 2015, marine power could supply 2.7 gigawatts to the mix, according to Pike Research. A gigawatt is the electrical output of a large nuclear power plant.

‘PowerBuoy’ joins the Marines

There are six marine renewable technologies currently under development that aim to take advantage of ocean waves, tides, rivers, ocean currents, differences in ocean temperatures with depth, and osmosis.

“The energy landscape is going to be a mix of different energy sources, with an increasing proportion coming from renewables,” said Charles Dunleavy, CEO of Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey-based research group also developing wave energy. “We aim to be a very big part of this.”

The company has been testing its wave energy device, called the PowerBuoy, in the ocean since 2005. It recently launched another device a mile offshore from the island of Oahu in Hawaii and connected it to the power grid of the U.S. Marine Corps base. It now supplies 40 kilowatts of energy at peak, enough to power about 25 to 30 homes.

“The Navy wants to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuel; they have a strong need to establish greater energy independence,” said Dunleavy.

The buoy captures the energy from right-sized waves (between 3 and 22 feet tall), which drive a hydraulic pump. The pump converts the motion into electricity in the ocean using a generator embedded into its base. A subsea cable transfers the power to the electrical grid. A buoy farm of 30 acres could yield 10 megawatts of energy, enough to supply 8,000 homes, said Dunleavy.

The structures rise 30 feet above water, and extend 115 feet down. They would not be a problem for commercial trawlers, which are farther offshore, or for ship navigation lanes, said Dunleavy. Recreational boaters, however, may have to watch out.

‘Oyster’ competes with the ‘top end of wind’

In comparison with a system such as the Oyster that brings water ashore to power turbines, creating electricity in the ocean is more efficient, said Dunleavy. “You lose a lot of energy to friction,” he said.

But Aquamarine’s system of having onshore power generation will cut down on maintenance costs, according to McAdam. Operation costs are expected to consume as much as 40% of the budget of operating a marine power plant, according to Pike Research.

Ocean Power is already selling its device for individual commercial use and building larger units of 150 kilowatts off the West Coast of the United States and for the utility company Iberdrola’s unit in Spain.

It is also developing the first wave power station under the Department of Energy’s stimulus program at Reedsport, Ore., according to Dunleavy. The farm, which currently has a 150-kilowatt unit, could grow by nine additional buoys.

And as for price, which is a major concern, Dunleavy said that cost compares with other renewables.

“It is cheaper than solar thermal and photovoltaics, and in the range of biomass,” he said. “It is at the top end of wind.”

The Oyster is also aiming to position itself as an alternative to wind power for utilities. McAdam said that by 2013, his company hopes to be a competitor to offshore wind installations. And by 2015, he hopes to compete with onshore wind.

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BBC News, November 24, 2009

Three UK groups studying climate change have issued a strong statement about the dangers of failing to cut emissions of greenhouse gases across the world.

The Royal Society, Met Office, and Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc) say the science of climate change is more alarming than ever.

They say the 2007 UK floods, 2003 heatwave in Europe and recent droughts were consistent with emerging patterns.

Their comments came ahead of crunch UN climate talks in Copenhagen next month.

‘Loss of wildlife’

In a statement calling for action to cut carbon emissions, institutions said evidence for “dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change” was growing.

Global carbon dioxide levels have continued to rise, Arctic summer ice cover was lower in 2007 and 2008 than in the previous few decades, and the last decade has been the warmest on average for 150 years.

The best thing we could do is to prepare for the worst. Build better flood defences in vulnerable areas Lee, Bracknell

Persistent drought in Australia and rising sea levels in the Maldives were further indicators of possible future patterns, they said.

They argue that without action there will be much larger changes in the coming decades, with the UK seeing higher food prices, ill health, more flooding and rising sea levels.

Known or probable damage across the world includes ocean acidification, loss of rainforests, degradation of ecosystems and desertification, they said.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world faced more droughts, floods, loss of wildlife, rising seas and refugees.

But Professor Julia Slingo, chief scientist of the Met Office, Professor Alan Thorpe, Nerc’s chief executive, and Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, said cutting emissions could substantially limit the severity of climate change.

Copenhagen summit

Prof Slingo told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the importance of the statement was that “it emphasises that whilst global mean temperature changes may not sound very large, the regional consequences of those are very great indeed”.

She said: “As the inter-governmental panel on climate change stated very clearly in 2007, without substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions we can likely, very likely, expect a world of increasing droughts, floods, species loss, rising seas [and] displaced human populations.

“What this statement says very clearly is that some of those things, whilst we can’t directly attribute them at the moment to global warming, are beginning to happen.”

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NAO NAKANISHI, Reuters, October 5, 2009

PelamisWaveFarm_PelamisWavePowerA first attempt fell victim to the crisis: now in the docks of Scotland’s ancient capital, a second-generation scarlet Sea Snake is being prepared to harness the waves of Britain’s northern islands to generate electricity.

Dwarfed by 180 metres of tubing, scores of engineers clamber over the device, which is designed to dip and ride the swelling sea with each move being converted into power to be channelled through subsea cables.

Due to be installed next spring at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, northern Scotland, the wave power generator was ordered by German power company E.ON, reflecting serious interest in an emerging technology which is much more expensive than offshore wind.

Interest from the utility companies is driven by regulatory requirements to cut carbon emissions from electricity generation, and it helps in a capital-intensive sector.

Venture capitalists interested in clean tech projects typically have shorter horizons for required returns than the 10-20 years such projects can take, so the utilities’ deeper pockets and solid capital base are useful.

“Our view … is this is a 2020 market place,” said Amaan Lafayette, E.ON’s marine development manager. “We would like to see a small-scale plant of our own in water in 2015-2017, built on what we are doing here. It’s a kind of generation we haven’t done before.”

The World Energy Council has estimated the market potential for wave energy at more than 2,000 terawatt hours a year — or about 10% of world electricity consumption — representing capital expenditure of more than 500 billion pounds ($790 billion).

Island nation Britain has a leading role in developing the technology for marine power, which government advisor the Carbon Trust says could in future account for 20% of the country’s electricity. The government is stepping up support as part of a 405 million pound investment in renewable energy to help its ambition of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels, while securing energy supply. (The challenge is more about getting to a place where we are comparable with other renewable technologies… We want to get somewhere around offshore wind,” said Lafayette.)

Britain’s Crown Estate, which owns the seabed within 12 nautical miles of the coast, is also holding a competition for a commercial marine energy project in Pentland Firth in northern Scotland.

Besides wave power, Britain is testing systems to extract the energy from tides: private company Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT) last year opened the world’s first large-scale tidal turbine SeaGen in Northern Ireland.

DEVELOPING LIKE WIND

wave_power_pelamis“We are often compared to the wind industry 20 years ago,” said Andrew Scott, project development manager at Pelamis Wave Power Ltd, which is developing the Sea Snake system, known as P2. Standing beside the train-sized serpent, Pelamis’ Scott said wave power projects are taking a variety of forms, which he said was similar to the development of the wind turbine. “You had vertical axis, horizontal axis and every kind of shapes before the industry consolidated on what you know as acceptable average modern day turbines.”

The Edinburgh Snake follows a pioneering commercial wave power project the company set up in Portugal last September, out of action since the collapse of Australian-based infrastructure group Babcock & Brown which held a majority share. “It’s easy to develop your prototypes and models in the lab, but as soon as you put them in water, it swallows capital,” said John Liljelund, CEO of Finnish wave energy firm AW-Energy, which just received $4.4 million from the European Union to develop its WaveRoller concept in Portugal.

At present, industry executives say marine power costs about double that from offshore wind farms, which require investment of around 2-3 million euros per megawatt. Solar panels cost about 3-4 million per megawatt, and solar thermal mirror power about 5 million.

UTILITY ACTION

Other utility companies involved in wave power trials include Spain’s Iberdrola, which has a small experimental wave farm using floating buoys called “Power Take- offs” off the coast of northern Spain. It is examining sites for a subsea tidal turbine project made by Norwegian company Hammerfest Strom.

Countries developing the technology besides Britain include Portugal, Ireland, Spain, South Korea and the United States: about 100 companies are vying for a share of the market, but only a handful have tested their work in the ocean.

Privately owned Pelamis has focussed on wave energy since 1998, has its own full-scale factory in Leith dock and sees more orders for the second generation in prospect.

Lafayette said E.ON examined more than 100 devices since 2001 before picking Sea Snake for its first ocean project, a three-year test: “They have a demonstrable track record … and commercial focus and business focus.”

A single Sea Snake has capacity of 750 kilowatts: by around 2015, Pelamis hopes each unit will have capacity of 20 megawatts, or enough to power about 30,000 homes.

Neither Pelamis nor E.ON would elaborate on the cost of the Sea Snake, but they said the goal is to bring it down to the level of offshore wind farms.

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Hydro Review, August 18, 2009

aquamarine-power_fb8xa_69Off the north coast of Scotland in waters 10 to 12 meters deep, ocean energy developer Aquamarine Power Ltd. has bolted its Oyster wave energy converter to the ocean floor and expects to be generating power by year’s end.

A team of offshore professionals eased the 194-ton converter into the sea at the European Marine Energy Center in the Orkney Islands. “Getting Oyster into the water and connected to the seabed was always going to be the most difficult step,” said Aquamarine CEO Martin McAdam. “Its completion is a real credit to everyone who has worked hard on planning and executing this major engineering feat on schedule.”

The Oyster is designed to capture energy from near-shore waves. The system includes an oscillating pump fitted with double-acting water pistons. Each wave activates the pump, delivering high-pressure water by pipeline to an onshore turbine that generates electricity. All electrical components of the Oyster are onshore, making it durable enough to withstand Scotland’s rough seas, McAdam said.

Marine constructor Fugro Seacore installed the Oyster converter under a $2.9 million contract.

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MendoCoastCurrent, August 4, 2009

oyster_prototype_device_aquamarine_powerOyster nearshore wave energy technology from Aquamarine Power is in the process of being placed on the seabed in the Atlantic off the coast of the Orkney Islands, Scotland for trials in autumn 2009.

The Oyster is based on a large, hydraulic oscillator fitted with pistons and activated by waves.  The oscillation pumps pressurized water through a pipeline to the shore.  Onshore, conventional hydro-electric generators convert the high-pressure water into electricity.

The concept is based on research from Queen’s University in Belfast. “Oyster’s technology is highly innovative because it relies on simplicity,” says Ronan Doherty, CTO at Aquamarine Power.

“Its offshore component – a highly reliable flap with minimal submerged moving parts – is the key to its success when operating in seas vulnerable to bad weather where maintenance can be very difficult.”  Doherty adds that as there is no underwater generator, electronics or gearbox and all the power generation equipment in onshore, where it is easily accessible.

Oyster technology is best deployed in near-shore regions at depths of 26-52 feet, where wave action tends to be more consistent and less variable in direction. The smaller size of waves near the shore also maximizes the lifetime of the device and the consistency of power generation. Each Oyster has a peak capacity of 300-600 kW but is designed to be deployed in multiple arrays.

Although still in the early stages of development, Aquamarine Power believes Oyster has great potential. “Our computer modeling of coastlines suitable for this technology shows that Spain, Portugal, Ireland and the UK are ideal candidates in Europe,” says Doherty. “But globally there is huge scope in areas like the Northwest coast of the U.S. and coastlines off South Africa, Australia and Chile.”

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EMMA WOOLLACOTT, TG Daily, July 15, 2009

rda-wave-hub-graphicThe world’s largest wave farm is to be built off the coast of south-west England under plans announced today. Pledging an investment of £9.5 million ($15.6 million), Business Secretary Lord Mandelson dubbed the region the first “Low Carbon Economic Area”.

The Wave Hub project – a giant, grid-connected socket on the seabed off the coast of Cornwall for wave energy devices to be tested on a huge scale – will be commissioned next summer.

Renewable energy company Ocean Power Technologies will take the first “berth” at Wave Hub, and has placed its first equipment order – for 16.5 miles of subsea cable – this week.

The project is being led by the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA), and also includes plans to evaluate schemes for generating tidal power from the river Severn estuary. “Bristol already boats world-leading expertise, especially around tidal stream technology,” said Stephen Peacock, Enterprise and Innovation Executive Director at the South West RDA.

This is a rather more controversial project, however, as locals and environmentalist groups fear its effect on wildlife habitats. The South West RDA is pledging to look at three embryonic Severn proposals that have “potentially less impact on the estuary environment than conventional technologies”.

What with government, RDA, European and private sector funding, total investment in the South West’s marine energy programme in the next two years is expected to top £100 million.

Regional Minister for the South West, Jim Knight, said: “We are a region that is rich in natural renewable energy resources such as wind, wave, tidal and solar and this makes us well positioned to capitalise on this great opportunity.”

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STEPHEN IVALL, Falmouth Packet UK, June 27, 2009

SWMTF-wave-energy-buoyThe ambition for Cornwall to become a world-leading centre for wave energy has moved a step closer to reality with the launch of a two-tonne (2000kg) buoy off the coast of Falmouth.

Developed by a team at the University of Exeter, the South Western Mooring Test Facility (SWMTF) buoy is a world first. It will gather detailed information to help inform the future design and development of moorings for marine energy devices.

It will complement the South West RDA’s (Regional Development Agency) Wave Hub project, which will create the world’s largest wave energy farm off the north coast of Cornwall. It also supports wider ambitions to make the South West a global centre of excellence for marine renewables.

The SWMTF is the latest development from PRIMaRE (the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy), a joint £15 million institute for research into harnessing the energy from the sea bringing together the technology and marine expertise of the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth.

Led by Dr Lars Johanning, the PRIMaRE mooring research group at the University of Exeter successfully developed the £305,000 SWMTF with capital investment from the ERDF Convergence programme matched with funds from the South West RDA. The research team is part of the University of Exeter’s Camborne School of Mines, based on the Tremough Campus, Penryn.

The SWMTF buoy has been designed with unique features so it can obtain very detailed data in actual sea conditions to show how moored structures respond to changes in wind, wave, current and tide. Using this information, developers will be able to model and test mooring designs and components for their marine energy devices as they convert wave movement into energy. The SWMTF will also provide data for a wide range of other marine devices.

The SWMTF buoy has a simple, circular design, with specialised sensors and other instruments built into its structure, enabling it to record data to a high degree of accuracy and allow real time data communication to shore. It has taken a year to develop the buoy and its instruments. Most of the components were manufactured by companies in the South West, many of which are in Cornwall.

Dr Lars Johanning of the University of Exeter said: “This is a major milestone in PRIMaRE’s research and we are excited about the potential this might have for the development of the Wave Hub project. It has been a huge challenge to build something that can function in the unpredictable environment of the open sea. This would not have been achieved without the design effort provided by the PRIMaRE project engineers Dave Parish and Thomas Clifford, and the many companies who have risen to the challenge to manufacture the buoy and its instruments. We look forward to announcing the results of our tests after the first set of sea trials.”

Nick Harrington, head of marine energy at the South West RDA, said: “We are investing £7.3 million in PRIMaRE to create a world-class marine renewables research base as part of our drive towards a low-carbon economy in the South West, and this buoy will help technology developers design safe but cost-effective moorings. Our groundbreaking Wave Hub project which is on course for construction next year will further cement our region’s reputation for being at the cutting edge of renewable energy development.”

Now that the buoy has been launched, the team will conduct the first tests, within the secure location of Falmouth Harbour. The buoy will then be moved to its mooring position in Falmouth Bay. Once moored at this location, data will be transmitted in real time to a shore station for analysis. A surveillance camera will transmit images to the PRIMaRE web page, allowing the team to continually monitor activities around the buoy.

The SWMTF buoy also has the potential to support other offshore industries, including oil and gas or floating wind installations, in the design of mooring systems. Discussions are already underway with instrumentation developers to develop specific underwater communication systems. In addition the development of the SWMTF buoy has helped secure funding for a collaborative European FP7-CORES (Components for Ocean Renewable Energy Systems) programme, taking the University of Exeter to the forefront of European wave energy converter research.

PRIMaRE will also play a strategic role in the Environmental and Sustainable Institute (ESI), which the University of Exeter aims to develop at the Tremough Campus.

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JAMES RICKMAN, Seeking Alpha, June 8, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoOceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. As the world’s largest solar collectors, oceans generate thermal energy from the sun. They also produce mechanical energy from the tides and waves. Even though the sun affects all ocean activity, the gravitational pull of the moon primarily drives the tides, and the wind powers the ocean waves.

Wave energy is the capture of the power from waves on the surface of the ocean. It is one of the newer forms of renewable or ‘green’ energy under development, not as advanced as solar energy, fuel cells, wind energy, ethanol, geothermal companies, and flywheels. However, interest in wave energy is increasing and may be the wave of the future in coastal areas according to many sources including the International Energy Agency Implementing Agreement on Ocean Energy Systems (Report 2009).

Although fewer than 12 MW of ocean power capacity has been installed to date worldwide, we find a significant increase of investments reaching over $2 billion for R&D worldwide within the ocean power market including the development of commercial ocean wave power combination wind farms within the next three years.

Tidal turbines are a new technology that can be used in many tidal areas. They are basically wind turbines that can be located anywhere there is strong tidal flow. Because water is about 800 times denser than air, tidal turbines will have to be much sturdier than wind turbines. They will be heavier and more expensive to build but will be able to capture more energy. For example, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest region alone, it’s feasible that wave energy could produce 40–70 kilowatts (kW) per meter (3.3 feet) of western coastline. Renewable energy analysts believe there is enough energy in the ocean waves to provide up to 2 terawatts of electricity.

Companies to Watch in the Developing Wave Power Industry:

Siemens AG (SI) is a joint venture partner of Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation, a leader in advanced hydro power technology and services, which owns Wavegen, Scotland’s first wave power company. Wavegen’s device is known as an oscillating water column, which is normally sited at the shoreline rather than in open water. A small facility is already connected to the Scottish power grid, and the company is working on another project in Northern Spain.

Ocean Power Technologies, Inc (OPTT) develops proprietary systems that generate electricity through ocean waves. Its PowerBuoy system is used to supply electricity to local and regional electric power grids. Iberdrola hired the company to build and operate a small wave power station off Santona, Spain, and is talking with French oil major Total (TOT) about another wave energy project off the French coast. It is also working on projects in England, Scotland, Hawaii, and Oregon.

Pelamis Wave Power, formerly known as Ocean Power Delivery, is a privately held company which has several owners including various venture capital funds, General Electric Energy (GE) and Norsk Hydro ADR (NHYDY.PK). Pelamis Wave Power is an excellent example of Scottish success in developing groundbreaking technology which may put Scotland at the forefront of Europe’s renewable revolution and create over 18,000 green high wage jobs in Scotland over the next decade. The Pelamis project is also being studied by Chevron (CVX).

Endesa SA ADS (ELEYY.PK) is a Spanish electric utility which is developing, in partnership with Pelamis, the world’s first full scale commercial wave power farm off Aguçadoura, Portugal which powers over 15,000 homes. A second phase of the project is now planned to increase the installed capacity from 2.25MW to 21MW using a further 25 Pelamis machines.

RWE AG ADR (RWEOY.PK) is a German management holding company with six divisions involved in power and energy. It is developing wave power stations in Siadar Bay on the Isle of Lewis off the coast of Scotland.

Australia’s Oceanlinx offers an oscillating wave column design and counts Germany’s largest power generator RWE as an investor. It has multiple projects in Australia and the U.S., as well as South Africa, Mexico, and Britain.

Alstom (AOMFF.PK) has also announced development in the promising but challenging field of capturing energy from waves and tides adding to the further interest from major renewable power developers in this emerging industry.

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced several wave energy developments including a cost-shared value of over $18 million, under the DOE’s competitive solicitation for Advanced Water Power Projects. The projects will advance commercial viability, cost-competitiveness, and market acceptance of new technologies that can harness renewable energy from oceans and rivers. The DOE has selected the following organizations and projects for grant awards:

First Topic Area: Technology Development (Up to $600,000 for up to two years)

Electric Power Research Institute, Inc (EPRI) (Palo Alto, Calif.) Fish-friendly hydropower turbine development & deployment. EPRI will address the additional developmental engineering required to prepare a more efficient and environmentally friendly hydropower turbine for the commercial market and allow it to compete with traditional designs.

Verdant Power Inc. (New York, N.Y.) Improved structure and fabrication of large, high-power kinetic hydropower systems rotors. Verdant will design, analyze, develop for manufacture, fabricate and thoroughly test an improved turbine blade design structure to allow for larger, higher-power and more cost-effective tidal power turbines.

Public Utility District #1 of Snohomish County (SnoPUD) (Everett, Wash.) Puget Sound Tidal Energy In-Water Testing and Development Project. SnoPUD will conduct in-water testing and demonstration of tidal flow technology as a first step toward potential construction of a commercial-scale power plant. The specific goal of this proposal is to complete engineering design and obtain construction approvals for a Puget Sound tidal pilot demonstration plant in the Admiralty Inlet region of the Sound.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company – San Francisco, Calif. WaveConnect Wave Energy In-Water Testing and Development Project. PG&E will complete engineering design, conduct baseline environmental studies, and submit all license construction and operation applications required for a wave energy demonstration plant for the Humboldt WaveConnect site in Northern California.

Concepts ETI, Inc (White River Junction, Vt.) Development and Demonstration of an Ocean Wave Converter (OWC) Power System. Concepts ETI will prepare detailed design, manufacturing and installation drawings of an OWC. They will then manufacture and install the system in Maui, Hawaii.

Lockheed Martin Corporation (LMT) – Manassas, Va., Advanced Composite Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion – “OTEC”, cold water pipe project. Lockheed Martin will validate manufacturing techniques for coldwater pipes critical to OTEC in order to help create a more cost-effective OTEC system.

Second Topic Area, Market Acceleration (Award size: up to $500,000)

Electric Power Research Institute (Palo Alto, Calif.) Wave Energy Resource Assessment and GIS Database for the U.S. EPRI will determine the naturally available resource base and the maximum practicable extractable wave energy resource in the U.S., as well as the annual electrical energy which could be produced by typical wave energy conversion devices from that resource.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation (Atlanta, Ga.) Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the U.S. Georgia Tech will utilize an advanced ocean circulation numerical model to predict tidal currents and compute both available and effective power densities for distribution to potential project developers and the general public.

Re Vision Consulting, LLC (Sacramento, Calif.) Best Siting Practices for Marine and Hydrokinetic Technologies With Respect to Environmental and Navigational Impacts. Re Vision will establish baseline, technology-based scenarios to identify potential concerns in the siting of marine and hydrokinetic energy devices, and to provide information and data to industry and regulators.

Pacific Energy Ventures, LLC (Portland, Ore.) Siting Protocol for Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Projects. Pacific Energy Ventures will bring together a multi-disciplinary team in an iterative and collaborative process to develop, review, and recommend how emerging hydrokinetic technologies can be sited to minimize environmental impacts.

PCCI, Inc. (Alexandria, Va.) Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Technologies: Identification of Potential Navigational Impacts and Mitigation Measures. PCCI will provide improved guidance to help developers understand how marine and hydrokinetic devices can be sited to minimize navigational impact and to expedite the U.S. Coast Guard review process.

Science Applications International Corporation (SAI) – San Diego, Calif., International Standards Development for Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy. SAIC will assist in the development of relevant marine and hydrokinetic energy industry standards, provide consistency and predictability to their development, and increase U.S. industry’s collaboration and representation in the development process.

Third Topic Area, National Marine Energy Centers (Award size: up to $1.25 million for up to five years)

Oregon State University, and University of Washington – Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center. OSU and UW will partner to develop the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center with a full range of capabilities to support wave and tidal energy development for the U.S. Center activities are structured to: facilitate device commercialization, inform regulatory and policy decisions, and close key gaps in understanding.

University of Hawaii (Honolulu, Hawaii) National Renewable Marine Energy Center in Hawaii will facilitate the development and implementation of commercial wave energy systems and to assist the private sector in moving ocean thermal energy conversion systems beyond proof-of-concept to pre-commercialization, long-term testing.

Types of Hydro Turbines

There are two main types of hydro turbines: impulse and reaction. The type of hydropower turbine selected for a project is based on the height of standing water— the flow, or volume of water, at the site. Other deciding factors include how deep the turbine must be set, efficiency, and cost.

Impulse Turbines

The impulse turbine generally uses the velocity of the water to move the runner and discharges to atmospheric pressure. The water stream hits each bucket on the runner. There is no suction on the down side of the turbine, and the water flows out the bottom of the turbine housing after hitting the runner. An impulse turbine, for example Pelton or Cross-Flow is generally suitable for high head, low flow applications.

Reaction Turbines

A reaction turbine develops power from the combined action of pressure and moving water. The runner is placed directly in the water stream flowing over the blades rather than striking each individually. Reaction turbines include the Propeller, Bulb, Straflo, Tube, Kaplan, Francis or Kenetic are generally used for sites with lower head and higher flows than compared with the impulse turbines.

Types of Hydropower Plants

There are three types of hydropower facilities: impoundment, diversion, and pumped storage. Some hydropower plants use dams and some do not.

Many dams were built for other purposes and hydropower was added later. In the United States, there are about 80,000 dams of which only 2,400 produce power. The other dams are for recreation, stock/farm ponds, flood control, water supply, and irrigation. Hydropower plants range in size from small systems for a home or village to large projects producing electricity for utilities.

Impoundment

The most common type of hydroelectric power plant (above image) is an impoundment facility. An impoundment facility, typically a large hydropower system, uses a dam to store river water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity. The water may be released either to meet changing electricity needs or to maintain a constant reservoir level.

The Future of Ocean and Wave Energy

Wave energy devices extract energy directly from surface waves or from pressure fluctuations below the surface. Renewable energy analysts believe there is enough energy in the ocean waves to provide up to 2 terawatts of electricity. (A terawatt is equal to a trillion watts.)

Wave energy rich areas of the world include the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa, Japan, Australia, and the northeastern and northwestern coasts of the United States. In the Pacific Northwest alone, it’s feasible that wave energy could produce 40–70 kilowatts (kW) per meter (3.3 feet) of western coastline. The West Coast of the United States is more than a 1,000 miles long.
In general, careful site selection is the key to keeping the environmental impacts of wave energy systems to a minimum. Wave energy system planners can choose sites that preserve scenic shorefronts. They also can avoid areas where wave energy systems can significantly alter flow patterns of sediment on the ocean floor.

Economically, wave energy systems are just beginning to compete with traditional power sources. However, the costs to produce wave energy are quickly coming down. Some European experts predict that wave power devices will soon find lucrative niche markets. Once built, they have low operation and maintenance costs because the fuel they use — seawater — is FREE.

The current cost of wave energy vs. traditional electric power sources?

It has been estimated that improving technology and economies of scale will allow wave generators to produce electricity at a cost comparable to wind-driven turbines, which produce energy at about 4.5 cents kWh.

For now, the best wave generator technology in place in the United Kingdom is producing energy at an average projected/assessed cost of 6.7 cents kWh.

In comparison, electricity generated by large scale coal burning power plants costs about 2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour. Combined-cycle natural gas turbine technology, the primary source of new electric power capacity is about 3 cents per kilowatt hour or higher. It is not unusual to average costs of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour and up for municipal utilities districts.

Currently, the United States, Brazil, Europe, Scotland, Germany, Portugal, Canada and France all lead the developing wave energy industry that will return 30% growth or more for the next five years.

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MendoCoastCurrent, March 25, 2009

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Aquamarine Power has signed a $2.7 million contract with Fugro Seacore to install their wave energy generator, the Oyster, at the European Marine Energy Center.

Aquamarine’s Oyster converter is designed for waters that are from 26-52 feet deep with anticipated installation 550 yards offshore in the second half of 2009.  The Oyster has a wave action pump sending pressured water in a pipeline to an electricity generator.

The generator, to be built in Orkney, Scotland, is expected to produce between 300 and 600 kilowatts for Scotland’s national grid.

The contract is part of the Scottish government’s goal to derive 50% its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.

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EMMA JACKSON, UniversityWorldNews, March 15, 2009

aquamarine-power_fb8xa_69A research team at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland has renewed a relationship with Aquamarine Power, a leading marine technology energy company. Together they may create the next generation of wave power converters that could some day be an alternative source of power for European maritime states. 

This five-year deal will focus on perfecting a so-called ‘Oyster’ wave power device which the university’s Wave Power Research Team and Aquamarine Power created between 2005 and 2008. 

Professor Trevor Whittaker, who leads the research team at Queen’s, says the next generation of Oyster would be the precursor to a commercially -viable model that could produce alternative power for much of the UK with its long coastline. 

The Oyster device is designed to capture the energy found in near-shore waves, which is then sent to a seaside converter to be made into hydroelectric power. 

Whittaker said the deal would be indispensable for both partners. While Aquamarine Power would have the benefit of using some of the field”s leading experts and their research, the university would benefit from financial support and hands-on experience for its PhD students.

Whittaker said the team from Aquamarine would rent the university’s state-of-the-art wave tanks to test several models, creating income for the university. Aquamarine also agreed to provide funding for two full-time staff members at the research facility: a senior research fellow, and a technician. 

He said the programme’s PhD students would be able to see their research, their academic work, being used for something. “When they write their theses, they don’t just sit on a shelf. We’re doing applied research that is benefiting humanity directly.”

The team will monitor survivability and watch how the devices interact with each other to guarantee continuous power output in all sea states. Whittaker said commercial wave power was still “in its infancy,” but Oyster Two, which would form the basis of any commercial model, would be ready by 2011.

Its predecessor, Oyster One, will be launched at sea for testing this summer at the European Marine Energy Centre off the coast of north-east Scotland’s Orkney Isles. 

Dr Ronan Doherty, Aquamarine’s Chief Technical Officer, said the UK Carbon Trust had estimated that up to 20% of current UK electricity demand could be met by wave and tidal stream energy, with the majority being in coastal communities.

“World leading facilities and researchers at Queen’s enable Aquamarine Power to not only peruse the industrial design of our products in a detailed way, but it is also the source of constant innovation and challenge resulting from their blue sky thinking and fundamental research,” Doherty said.

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MARSHA W. JOHNSTON, RenewableEnergyWorld.com, March 2009

One hundred and forty-one years ago, the relentless sea off Scotland’s coast inspired the following observation from native son and author George MacDonald:

I climbed the heights above the village, and looked abroad over the Atlantic. What a waste of aimless tossing to and fro! Gray mist above, full of falling rain; gray, wrathful waters underneath, foaming and bursting as billow broke upon billow…they burst on the rocks at the end of it, and rushed in shattered spouts and clouds of spray far into the air over their heads. “Will the time ever come,” I thought, when man shall be able to store up even this force for his own ends? Who can tell.”

In the United States, permitting may be an even bigger hurdle to marine energy deployment than financing. Between 25 and 35 different U.S. federal, state and local regulatory agencies claim some jurisdiction over marine power deployment. In the UK, two agencies handle permitting.

Today, we can certainly say, “Yes, the time will come.” The only question remaining is how long it will be before humankind routinely and widely uses electricity generated from the kinetic power of ocean tides, currents and waves.

If one defines “commercial ocean energy” as several tens of megawatts, the world cannot yet boast a commercial ocean energy installation. Indeed, only two installations of either wave, tidal or in-stream current devices are grid-connected and can generate over 1 megawatt (MW) of power. One is Pelamis Wave Power’s 2.25-MW Aguçadoura project off of Portugal’s northern coast and the other is Bristol-based Marine Current Turbines’ (MCT) SeaGen, a US $20-million commercial-scale tidal-energy project under development in Northern Ireland’s turbulent Strangford Narrows. In December, SeaGen boasted the first tidal turbine to hit a capacity of 1.2 MW.

(The biggest exception to commercial ocean energy production is the world’s longest running tidal power plant, the 240-MW La Rance, in France. But the plant’s barrage technology, which traps water behind a dam and releases it at low tide, has fallen out of favor due to its perceived higher environmental impact than underwater turbines. Nova Scotia has also been operating a 20-MW barrage Tidal Generating Station in the tidal-rich Bay of Fundy since 1984.)

The rest of the world’s wave, tidal and current installations, some of which have been in the water as far back as the 1990s, are experimental and prototype units ranging in size from 35 kilowatts (kW) to 400 kW. Because these units operate only intermittently and are not typically connected to any grid, it is not possible to determine their total power generation.

Many of these units are prototype demonstration units for the much bigger installations that are under development and that will begin to realize significant exploitation of the world’s ocean energy resource. For example, Ocean Power Technologies Inc. will use the 150-kW PowerBuoy it has been testing since the mid-90s as the “workhorse” for the 270-MW, four-site wave energy plant off California and Oregon coasts that it has partnered with Lockheed Martin to develop, says CEO George Taylor.

And Inverness, Scotland-based WaveGen expects to use 40 units of the 100-kw turbine it just installed off the Island of Islay for a 4-MW farm off of Scotland’s Isle of Lewis. Meanwhile, Pelamis says if its 750-kw “sea snake” devices, which were installed last year, make it through the winter, it will put 37 more of them in the water, generating 30 MW.

All of the wave, tidal, ocean and river current power around North America that can be practically extracted could together provide 10% of today’s electrical consumption in the U.S., says Roger Bedard, ocean energy leader at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, CA. He adds that the total water resource could, it is sometimes said, possibly power the world twice over, but a lot of it is out of reach. “Hudson’s Bay, off the Arctic Circle, has HUGE tidal power, but it is thousands of miles from where anyone lives. We have HUGE wave resources off Aleutian Islands, but the same problem,” he says.  See EPRI’s U.S. Offshore Wave Energy Resource Map, below.

What will be the “magic” year for large-scale ocean energy deployment? Most developers indicate 2011-2012. Trey Taylor, co-founder and president of Verdant Power, which is moving into the commercial development phase of its 7-year-old Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project, says the firm aims to have “at least 35 MW” in the water by the end of 2011.

Bedard is more circumspect. “I think it will be 2015 in Europe and 2025 in U.S. for big deployment,” he says, adding that the year cited depends entirely on the definition of “big” and “commercial,” which he defines as “many tens of megawatts.”

Verdant’s Taylor expects greater initial success in Canada. “The fundamental difference between Canada and the U.S. is that the underpinning of processes in Canada is collaborative and in the U.S. it is adversarial. It’s just the nature of Canadians, collaborating for community good, whereas in the U.S. people are afraid of being sued,” he said.

Bedard says the U.S. could catch up to Europe earlier, if the Obama Administration walks its big renewable energy infrastructure investment talk. “But if it’s business as usual, it could be later, depending on the economy,” he says.

Since the global economy began to melt down last September, many ocean energy companies have had to refocus their investment plans. With venture capital and institutional monies drying or dried up, firms are turning to public funds, strategic partners such as utilities and big engineering firms, and angel investors.

In November, MCT retained London-based Cavendish Corp Finance to seek new financing. Raymond Fagan, the Cavendish partner charged with MCT, said although tidal energy is not as advanced as wind or solar, he has seen a “strong level of interest so far from large engineering-type firms in MCT’s leading position.” Because MCT holds patents and is delivering power to the grid ahead of its competitors, Fagan thinks Cavendish can bring it together with such strategic partners.

In addition to the economic climate, he notes that the drop in oil and gas prices is further slowing renewable energy investment decisions. “Six to 12 months ago, people were leaping into renewable energy opportunities,” he says, adding that the UK government’s recent call for marine energy proposals for the enormous Pentland Firth zone north of Scotland will improve Cavendish’s chances of getting financing. Though it has yet to make a public announcement, MCT is widely viewed as a prime operator for the zone.

Monies are still available. Witness Pelamis Wave Power’s infusion of 5 million pounds sterling in November, which it says it will use for ongoing investment in core R&D and continuing development of its manufacturing processes and facilities.

In the U.S., permitting may be an even bigger hurdle to marine energy deployment than financing. Between 25 and 35 different U.S. federal, state and local regulatory agencies claim some jurisdiction over marine power deployment. In the UK, two agencies handle permitting. Bedard notes however, that streamlining the process in the U.S. may have begun with the recent opening of a new six-month process for licensing pilot marine energy plants.

Marine energy experts agree that there are more opportunities for wave power than for tidal, as there are simply fewer exploitable tidal sites. In technology terms, however, tidal turbines have benefited from a quarter century of wind turbine development, says Virginia Tech professor George Hagerman. Despite more widely available wave resource, wave energy developers face the challenge of needing many more devices than do tidal energy developers, and have a higher cabling cost to export the power.

As Christopher Barry, co-chair of the Ocean Renewable Energy panel at the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, explains: “The major challenge [to ocean energy] is not pure technology, but the side issues of power export and making the technology affordable and survivable.”

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BBC News, February 25, 2009

transmissionoverviewA BMW saloon was converted with equipment to capture energy normally wasted when a driver brakes.

The team from Midlothian-based Artemis Intelligent Power said the equipment was less expensive than the batteries used in existing hybrid vehicles.

Carbon emissions from the prototype were also down by 30% in combined city and motorway driving.

The system, known as Digital Displacement, was originally developed to convert the irregular movements of waves into a steady stream of energy.

pump_animation

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A hydraulic drive allows energy usually wasted during braking to be stored and used again when the car needs to accelerate.

The car ran on a mixture of stored energy and petrol, with computer control technology used to switch between the two power sources.

Project leader Dr. Wim Rampen said the technology represented a serious step forward in achieving cost-effective fuel economy.

“The system will be much less expensive than electric hybrids and will help to make hybrid vehicles an economic, rather than a lifestyle, choice,” he said.

The project was supported by the British Department for Transport and the Energy Saving Trust.

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PETER BROWN, EnergyCurrent.com, February 16, 2009

stromnessOn a Monday morning in May last year, the Atlantic tide set a turbine in motion on the seabed off Orkney, and the energy captured was connected to the national grid. It was, said Jim Mather, Scotland’s Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, a “massive step forward”.

The amount of electricity generated may have been tiny, but for marine engineers the significance was huge. Their industry had stopped paddling and started to swim.

For small companies trying to get wave or tide devices off the drawing board and into the sea, many problems lie in wait. All turbines, whether they sit on the seabed or float, must withstand that once-in-a-century wave that could be a thousand times more powerful than the average. Conditions vary with the seasons and the seabed. A device that works in a fjord might not function in a firth. Rigorous, long-term testing is therefore vital.

“There are parallels with wind,” says Alan Mortimer, head of renewables policy at Scottish Power. “Many different types of turbine were proposed in the early Eighties. They boiled down to a small number of successful concepts. The same needs to happen with marine devices, but the difference is that they need to be full- size just to be tested.

“To get a reasonable number of prototypes into the water costs millions. What these small companies need is capital support.”

That, however, is hard to find. The Wave and Tidal Energy Support Scheme (Wates), which put GBP13.5 million into promising technologies, is now closed. Last year the Scottish Government offered the 10m Saltire Prize for a commercially viable scheme, but the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), in its recent report Marine Energy: More Than Just a Drop in the Ocean?, called on the Government to provide another 40m.

This would go towards schemes to be tested at EMEC, the European Marine Energy Centre, which has two supported sites, with grid access, at Orkney. It was there that an Irish company, OpenHydro, made the grid breakthrough last year. “It’s desperately important that we grasp the nettle now,” says William Banks, IMechE’s president. “We have the micro-systems in place and I’d like to see them developed to the macro stage. However, unless we do that step by step, we’ll be in trouble.”

An estimated 50 teams are working around the world on marine energy. The danger is that Britain, and Scotland in particular, could lose the race, even though, as Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, says, “Scotland has a marine energy resource which is unrivalled in Europe.”

Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s tidal resources and a tenth of its wave potential.

Around 1,000 people work in Scottish marine energy, but that figure could billow. “You’re talking about an exercise that could transform the marine industry into something equivalent to oil and gas,” says Martin McAdam, whose company, Aquamarine Power, is growing fast.

Among his rivals in Scotland are AWS Ocean Energy, based near Inverness, with Archimedes, a submerged wave machine; Hammerfest UK, which wants to develop three 60MW tidal sites and is working with Scottish Power; Pelamis Wave Power, who are based in Edinburgh; and Scotrenewables, based in Orkney, who are currently developing a floating tidal turbine.

Politicians need to be educated about marine energy’s potential, says Banks. Indeed, IMechE has highlighted the need for sustained political leadership if what many see as the biggest problem – that of the grid – is to be solved. Why bring energy onshore if it can’t then reach homes?

“Grids were built to connect large power stations to cities. Now you’re going to have electricity generated all over the countryside. It’s a huge challenge,” says McAdam.

“We have had meetings with Ofgen and the national grid companies and we’re outlining the need to have grids to support at least 3,000MW of energy by 2020. That is definitely possible.” McAdam adds: “A European undersea grid is also being promoted and we’re very supportive of that.”

Such a system would help to overcome a frequent objection to renewables – their fickleness. If waves were strong in Scotland, Finland or France could benefit, and vice versa.

Another challenge is the cost of installation. “At the moment we’re competing with oil and gas for boats,” says McAdam. “We need to move away from using heavy-lift, jack-up vessels.” The answer might be devices that can be floated into position and then weighted down.

The race between suppliers is speeding up. Permission for a 4MW station at Siadar, off Lewis in the Western Isles, has just been granted to Wavegen, based in Inverness, and Npower Renewables. It could power about 1,500 homes, creating 70 jobs.

Among the success stories are the three 140-metre, red tubes developed by Pelamis (named after a sea serpent) which already float off the northern Portuguese coast at Aguadoura. More Pelamis turbines are to be installed at EMEC, along with Aquamarine’s wave device Oyster.

Oyster is basically a giant flap which feeds wave energy onshore to be converted to electricity. It has already been made, at a former oil and gas plant at Nigg, north of Inverness. A high- pressure pipeline was completed in December and a hydro-electric station will be installed this spring. In the summer, Oyster will finally be bolted to piles hammered into the seabed.

Unlike wave energy, tidal power needs a channel between two land masses – and in the roaring Pentland Firth, between Caithness and Orkney, Scotland has what has been called “the Saudi Arabia of marine power”, Europe’s largest tidal resource. To exploit it, a GBP2 million contract to build Aquamarine’s tidal power device, Neptune, was awarded last month. It will be tested at EMEC.

Elsewhere, SeaGen, an “underwater windmill” developed by a Bristol company, has just generated 1.2MW near the mouth of Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland.
But the most controversial of Britain’s tidal energy schemes is, of course, in the Severn Estuary, where a barrage could provide around 5% of Britain’s energy. Environmentalists fear irreparable damage to marshes and mudflats, but the Government is known to prefer the barrage to other, smaller options. The decision it takes next year is sure to be eagerly watched in Scotland.

Somewhat overshadowed by the Severn plan is Wave Hub, a project to build a wave-power station 10 miles off St Ives, on Cornwall’s north coast, using both Pelamis and a sea-bed device developed by ORECon of Plymouth. An application to create a safety area around it has just been submitted, part of the meticulous planning that precedes any marine trial.

“We have to have environmentalists looking at the impact on fisheries, flora and fauna,” says McAdam. “And we have to be completely open with the communities we’re going into. But most people realise that climate change and energy security are real things. We want to minimalise our environmental impact and give the country a means of isolating itself from the volatility of oil and gas.”

In theory, marine energy could generate a fifth of the UK’s electricity needs, but that would require a multitude of stations. Bill Banks believes nuclear power will be needed. “But we also need a variety of renewables,” he says. “Marine will take its place along with bio, hydro and wind energy. It’s available, it’s there at the moment, and if we get our act together I think we can lead Europe. We need a synergy of activity.”

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MaritimeJournal.com, February 12, 2009

mj_newsletter_12-2-09_pelamisEdinburgh-based Pelamis Wave Power has won an order from UK renewable energy generator E.On for the next generation Pelamis Wave Energy Converter, known as the P2.

The P2 will be built at the Pelamis Leith Docks facility and trialed at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. This is the first time a major utility has ordered a wave energy converter for installation in the UK and the first time the Pelamis P2 machine will be tested anywhere in the world.

Pelamis already has the world’s first multi-unit wave farm operational some 5km off the north coast of Portugal at Agucadora, where three 750kW machines deliver 2.25MW of electricity to the Portuguese grid. Operator Enersis has issued a letter of intent to Pelamis for a further 20MW of capacity to expand the successful project.

Licenses, consents and funding have been granted for the Orcadian Wave Farm, which will consist of four Pelamis generators supplied to ScottishPower Renewables. This installation, also at EMEC, will utilise existing electrical subsea cables, substation and grid connection.

Funding and consent has also been granted for Wave Hub, a wave energy test facility 15km off the north coast of Cornwall UK which is expected to be commissioned this year. It will consist of four separate berths, each capable of exporting 5MW of wave generated electricity. Ocean Prospect has secured exclusive access to one of the Wave Hub berths for the connection of multiple Pelamis devices.

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JENNY HAWORTH, Scotman.com, February 12, 2009

na910MORE than three dozen energy companies from across the world are hoping to install wave energy devices in a stretch of sea off the north of Scotland. The renewable energy firms all have their sights on the Pentland Firth, which is considered one of the best locations in the world for generating electricity from the power of the tides.

Yesterday, the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed and will authorize any offshore  wave energy project, announced it had invited 38 companies to submit detailed plans for schemes in the Pentland Firth.

This is the first stretch of water off the UK to be opened up for development of marine renewables, meaning successful companies will be building among the first marine wave energy projects in the world.

Each company hopes to install dozens, or even hundreds of wave energy devices, such as tidal turbines, in the ocean.

Alex Salmond, the First Minister, hopes it will help Scotland become a world leader in renewable energy, saying “the fact that so many companies have already registered their interest in developing wave and tidal energy projects in the Pentland Firth and surrounding waters is extremely encouraging.”

“The Scottish Government has recently launched the world’s greatest-ever single prize for innovation in marine energy, the £10 million Saltire Prize, and the opening of the Pentland Firth for development is a timely and crucial move.”

The Crown Estate invited initial expressions of interest in the Pentland Firth from renewables firms in November 2008. A spokeswoman said she could not reveal how many companies had shown an interest because of competition rules, but she confirmed 38 firms would be invited to the next stage – to tender for sites in the Pentland Firth.

They must now submit detailed applications, spelling out how many devices they want to install in the water, by the end of May.

The Crown Estate will decide which are suitable, and the companies will then have to apply for planning permission from the Scottish Government.

Calum Duncan, Scottish conservation manager for the Marine Conservation Society, welcomed renewable technologies, but said the possible impact of the devices on sensitive seabed habitats must be considered, including the likely affect on mussel beds and feeding areas for fish, basking sharks and seabirds.

Liam McArthur, the Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson and MSP for Orkney, also welcomed the strong interest but had reservations. “This energetic stretch of water will be a challenging resource to tame,” he said.

“We still know relatively little about the Pentland Firth and what will happen when we start putting devices in the water there.

“While the Pentland Firth is often described as the Saudi Arabia of tidal power, the challenges it presents also make it the Mount Everest.”

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DAVID EWENCHIEF, The Evening Express, February 11, 2009

images2The Aberdeenshire Council has pointed to tides – rather than wind turbines – as the best green solution to the energy crisis. The council took part in a consultation on the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Bill, which is going through Parliament, suggesting tide and current generation would be more reliable than wind turbines. “Wind cannot take up the slack. And we have a fair amount of coastline to play with,” a report said.

Aberdeenshire council suggested mini hydro-electric schemes on its rivers could also be more effective than wind turbines. Nearly 200 wind turbines have already been approved in the Northeast.

Mervyn Newberry, former chairman of the Skelmonae Windfarm Action Group, said he was not surprised at Aberdeenshire council’s sudden change of heart over the wind turbines. “It is completely expected,” he said. “The politicians just go with whatever is popular at the time. Though I am not as familiar with tidal energy, I am certainly more in favour of this form of energy because it doesn’t destroy the environment.”

Tarves, in Aberdeenshire, has been hit with a proposal for four wind turbines. Chairman of Tarves Community Council Bob Davidson claimed Aberdeenshire Council has been inconsistent in backing wind turbines. “I would not be surprised at inconsistency from the local authority,” he said.

Today Aberdeenshire Council boss Anne Robertson defended the use of wind turbines. She pointed out that tide technology has lagged behind wind-based technology in the North-east. Mrs Robertson stressed that the impact of wind turbines on the landscape was always considered. She said: “The wind turbine issue is one that has been dealt with through the planning process. “There have been quite a number of schemes turned down in Aberdeenshire.”

In its response to the bill consultation, Aberdeen City Council stressed the “importance of joint working” to reduce energy consumption. Wind turbines planned for Aberdeen Bay could supply all of the city’s houses with electricity.

Aberdeen-based Green Ocean Energy Ltd is developing a wave-based energy system to work alongside wind turbines. The Scottish Government rules on planning projects at sea.

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MATTHEW MCDERMOTT, Treehuger.com, February 10, 2009

3268992893_da741f3657Based off the Aberdeen, Scotland-based company’s Ocean Treader, the Wave Treader is designed to mount onto the tower of an offshore wind turbine.

The Wave Treader concept utilizes the arms and sponsons from Ocean Treader and instead of reacting against a floating spar buoy, will react through an interface structure onto the foundation of an offshore wind turbine. Between the arms and the interface structure hydraulic cylinders are mounted and as the wave passes the machine first the forward sponson will lift and fall and then the aft sponson will lift and fall each stroking their hydraulic cylinder in turn. This pressurizes hydraulic fluid which is then smoothed by hydraulic accumulators before driving a hydraulic motor which in turn drives an electricity generator. The electricity is then exported through the cable shared with the wind turbine.

Each Wave Treader is rated at 500kW and can turn to face into the waves to ensure optimal power generation. The first full-size prototype is expected to be built later this year, with commercial versions being made available in 2011.

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MendoCoastCurrent, February 10, 2009

seferry_orkneyE.On is moving forward to install and test a single wave device to be fully operational in 2010. Based around a single 750kW Pelamis P2 device that is currently being built in Edinburgh, it will be installed and tested at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney.  

The first year of technology testing will be an extended commissioning period, with the next two years designed to improve the operation of the equipment. It would become the first utility to test a wave energy device at the Orkney centre, which is the only grid-connected marine test site in Europe.

“We recognise much work has to follow before we can be certain marine energy will fulfil its potential,” Amaan Lafayette, Marine Development Manager at E.On, said. “But the success of this device will give us the confidence to move to the next phase of commercialisation, which is larger arrays around the UK coastline.”

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DAVID FOGARTY, Reuters Climate Change Correspondent, February 5, 2009

ceto-overview1For millennia, Australia’s rugged southern coast has been carved by the relentless action of waves crashing ashore.

The same wave energy could soon be harnessed to power towns and cities and trim Australia’s carbon emissions.

“Waves are already concentrated solar energy,” says Michael Ottaviano, who leads a Western Australian firm developing a method to turn wave power into electricity.

“The earth has been heated by the Sun, creating wind, which created the swells,” he told Reuters from Perth, saying wave power had the potential to supply all of Australia’s needs many times over.

Ottaviano heads Carnegie Corp, which has developed a method of using energy captured from passing waves to generate high-pressure sea water. This is piped onshore to drive a turbine and to create desalinated water.

A series of large buoys are tethered to piston pumps anchored in waters 15 to 50 metres deep (49 to 131 feet). The rise and fall of passing waves drives the pumps, generating water pressures of up to 1,000 pounds per square inch (psi).

This drives the turbine onshore and forces the water through a membrane that strips out the salt, creating fresh water in a process that normally requires a lot of electricity.

The CETO (named after a mythical Greek sea creature) pumps and buoys are located under water, differing from some other wave power methods, for example, those that sit on the surface.

The CETO concept was invented in the 1970s by a Western Australian businessman Alan Burns and initial development began in 1999, followed by completion of a working prototype by 2005.

Ottaviano says the company, which works in partnership with British-based wind farm developer Renewable Energy Holdings and French utility EDF, is in the process of selecting a site for its first commercial demonstration plant in Australia.

The 50 megawatt plant, enough to power a large town, would cost between A$300 million to A$400 million ($193 million to $257 million) and cover about 5 hectares (12.5 acres) of seabed.

Funding could be raised from existing or new shareholders, he believes.

Several sites in Western Australia, including Albany in the south and Garden Island off Perth, looked promising.

“There’s significant interest in these sorts of projects, even in the current financial environment,” he added.

And a 50 MW plant was just a drop in the ocean.

He pointed to a study commissioned by the company that said wave power had the potential to generate up to 500,000 MW of electricity along the southern half of Australia’s coast at depths greater than 50 metres (165 feet).

At shallower depths, the potential was 170,000 MW, or about four times Australia’s installed power generation capacity.

Interest in renewable energy in Australia and elsewhere is being driven by government policies that enshrine clean energy production targets as well as state-backed funding programmes for emerging clean-tech companies.

“Australia is going to be one of those markets because of what the government is doing to drive investment in this sector. For starters, there’s quite a bit of direct government funding for projects like this,” he said.

The federal government has also set a renewable energy target of 20% by 2020, which is expected to drive billions of dollars worth of investment in Australia over the next decade, with much of it going into wind farms.

A second company, BioPower Systems, is developing underwater wave and tidal power systems and expects to complete pilot projects off northern Tasmania this year.

The company’s bioWAVE system is anchored to the sea bed and generates electricity through the movement of buoyant blades as waves pass, in a swaying motion similar to the way sea plants, such as kelp, move.

Tidal power, in which electricity is generated by turbines spinning to the ebb and flow of tides, has not taken off in Australia, partly because of cost, but is expected to be a big provider of green power in Britain in coming years.

Last week, Britain announced five possible projects to generate power from a large tidal area in south-west England. The largest of the projects could generate 8,600 MW and cost 21 billion pounds ($29 billion).

CONSTANT

Ottaviano believes wave power is one of the few green technologies that can provide steady, or baseload power.

Wind and solar photovoltaic panels can only operate at 25 to 30% efficiencies because neither the wind nor the sun are permanently available.

Government policies should promote the development of technologies that delivered large-scale, high-availability clean power competitively, he said.

“If you look from an outcome point of view and leave it up to the market to work out how that is going to be achieved, it comes down to geothermal certainly being one of the potential technologies because (of) its high availability and also potentially cost-competitive and harnessable at large scale,” Ottaviano said.

Australia has large geothermal potential in remote central and northern areas.

“Wave is another logical one because it is high availability. It is 90 to 100% available in most sites around southern Australia.”

“You could power the country 10 times over.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 23, 2009

Marine Current Turbines Ltd, the Bristol based UK tidal energy company, in now in partnership Canada’s Minas Basin Pulp and Power Company Ltd to demonstrate and develop tidal power technology and facilities in Canada’s Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia. Minas Basin Pulp and Power Company Limited (MBPP) of Hantsport, Nova Scotia is a leading sustainable energy and resources company.

Working in partnership with MBPP, Marine Current Turbines (MCT) will participate in the tidal power demonstration centre established by the Province of Nova Scotia. MBPP and MCT intend to deploy a 1.5MW tidal generator when the in-stream tidal energy centre enters full operation and is connected to the Nova Scotia grid. 

MCT installed the world’s first offshore tidal current device in 2003 off the south west coast of England (the 300kW SeaFlow) and during 2008, it installed and commissioned its 1.2MW SeaGen commercial prototype tidal current turbine in Strangford Narrows in Northern Ireland. SeaGen generated at its full output of 1.2MW onto the local grid in December 2008, becoming the most powerful marine energy device in the world. It has the capacity to generate power for approximately 1,000 homes. 

Notes on the SeaGen Technology from MCT: SeaGen works by generating power from sea currents, using a pair of axial flow turbines driving generators through gearboxes using similar principles to wind generator technology. The main difference is that the high density of seawater compared to wind allows a much smaller system; SeaGen has twin 600kW turbines each of 16m diameter. The capture of kinetic energy from a water current, much like with wind energy or solar energy, depends on how many square meters of flow cross-section can be addressed by the system. With water current turbines it is rotor swept area that dictates energy capture capability, because it is the cross section of flow that is intercepted which matters. SeaGen has over 400 square meters of rotor area which is why it can develop its full rated power of 1.2MW in a flow of 2.4m/s (5 knots).

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BBC News, January 22, 2009

_45402571_siadar_wavepower_226One of the world’s largest wave stations is to be constructed in Scotland off the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles.

The station will create up to 70 jobs and advance Scotland’s bid to lead the world in renewable energy, First Minister Alex Salmond said.

Ministers have granted consent for an application by npower renewables to operate a wave farm with a 4MW capacity at Siadar.

It is one of the first marine energy projects to be approved in the UK.

The technology used is called “oscillating water column”.

Ocean waves move air in and out of chambers in a breakwater, which in turn drives a turbine from Inverness-based Wavegen, known as the Wells turbine, to generate electricity.

Stephen Salter, a professor of engineering design at the University of Edinburgh and a leading expert on renewable energy said that wave power had the potential to provide 100kw of power for every metre of ocean — amounting to a big conventional power station for every 10km of shoreline.

At 4mw of power the Lewis wave farm will be able to power around 1800 homes — a thousand times less powerful than a conventional coal fired Drax power station.

Even so Prof Salter said he believed the Lewis project to be the largest wave farm in the world, adding: “It is still small but the longest journey starts with a single step.”

First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Today’s announcement is a significant step in Scotland’s journey to become a world leader in renewables.

“The Siadar wave farm will be one of the largest consented wave electricity generating station in the world.

“It is the first commercial wave farm in Scotland and is starting with a capacity to power around 1,800 homes.

“Nationally, this development will further strengthen our sector and locally, it has the potential to create up to 70 jobs in the Western Isles.

“This is good news for the Western Isles and for Scotland but its long-term potential is global.”

npower renewables’ managing director Paul Cowling said: “Scotland has immense potential in marine energy and the opportunity to be a world leader in marine renewables.

“This consent is an important milestone in the development of wave power technology and is to be celebrated.

“However, commercial demonstration projects such as Siadar still face significant economic challenges.”

Matthew Seed, chief executive officer of Wavegen said: “The Siadar Wave Energy Project will be a major step in the development of the wave energy industry in Scotland and worldwide.

“Wavegen’s proven technology will now be employed at full commercial scale, paving the way for real cost efficiencies which will bring the cost of wave energy closer to that of more established technologies.”

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PHILIPPE NAUGHTON, TimesOnline UK, January 8, 2009

th0_13120098web-turbine-7-1-09An investigation was under way today into how a 65 ft. blade was mysteriously torn off a wind turbine amid reports of “strange lights” in the sky.

The 300 ft. turbine at Conisholme in Lincolnshire was left wrecked after the incident. Local residents speculate that the damage could have been caused by a UFO.

Ecotricity, the company which operates the turbine, said it was investigating the unprecedented incident. A spokeswoman said: “We’re conducting a thorough investigation into what happened. This kind of thing has never happened to us before.”

The missing blade was found on the ground beneath the turbine, she said, adding that the company could not speculate on the cause of the damage. “An engineer has been on the site since it happened, early on Sunday morning, and is carrying out a sort of forensic investigation.”
Ministry of Defence scientists have concluded that UFOs have not visited the earth, in spite of the many sightings reported in Britain last autumn.

It is reported that flashing orange-yellow spheres had been seen by dozens of people in the area, including by Dorothy Willows, who lives half a mile from the scene of the incident. Ms Willows was in her car when she saw the lights.

“She said: “The lights were moving across the sky towards the wind farm. Then I saw a low flying object. It was skimming across the sky towards the turbines.”

The blade was ripped off hours later, at 4 a.m.

The Ministry of Defence said it was not looking into the incident. A spokesman said: “The MoD examines reports solely to establish whether UK airspace may have been compromised by hostile or unauthorised military activity. Unless there’s evidence of a potential threat, there’s no attempt to identify the nature of each sighting reported.”

But Nick Pope, a UFO-watcher who used to work for the MOD, called for an investigation. “There’s a public safety issue here, whatever you believe about UFOs. The Ministry of Defence’s standard line on UFOs isn’t good enough. The MOD and the Civil Aviation Authority need to investigate as a matter of urgency.”

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ALOK JHA, Guardian UK, January 5, 2009

Tidal Energy's DeltaStream

Tidal Energy's DeltaStream

Propellers on ships have been tried and tested for centuries in the rough and unforgiving environment of the sea: now this long-proven technology will be used in reverse to harness clean energy from the UK’s powerful tides.

The tides that surge around the UK’s coasts could provide up to a quarter of the nation’s electricity, without any carbon emissions. But life in the stormy seas is harsh and existing equipment – long-bladed underwater wind turbines – is prone to failure.  A Welsh renewable energy company has teamed up with ship propulsion experts to design a new marine turbine which they believe is far more robust.

Cardiff-based Tidal Energy Limited will test a 1MW tidal turbine off the Pembrokeshire coast at Ramsey Sound, big enough to supply around 1,000 homes. Their DeltaStream device, invented by marine engineer Richard Ayre while he was installing buoys in the marine nature reserve near Pembrokeshire, will be the first tidal device in Wales and become fully operational in 2010.

To ensure the propeller and electricity generation systems were as tough as possible, the tidal turbine’s designers worked with Converteam, a company renowned for designing propulsion systems for ships. “They’ve put them on the bottom of the Queen Mary … and done work for highly efficient destroyers, which is exactly the same technology that we’re looking at here,” said Chris Williams, development director of DeltaStream.

DeltaStream’s propellers work in reverse to a ship’s propulsion system – the water turns the blades to generate electricity – but the underlying connections between blades and power systems are identical to those on the ship.

Tidal streams are seen as a plentiful and predictable supply of clean energy, as the UK tries to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Conservative estimates suggest there is at least 5GW of power, but there could be as much as 15GW – 25% of current national demand.

A single DeltaStream unit has three propeller-driven generators that sit on a triangular frame. It weighs 250 tonnes, but is relatively light compared with other tidal systems which can be several times heavier. The unit is simple to install and can be used in closely packed units at depths of at least 20m. Unlike other tidal turbine systems, which must be anchored to the sea floor using piles bored into the seabed, DeltaStream’s triangular structure simply sits on the sea floor.

Duncan Ayling, head of offshore at the British Wind Energy Association and a former UK government adviser on marine energy, said that one of the biggest issues facing all tidal-stream developers is ease of installation and maintenance of their underwater device. “Anything you put under the water becomes expensive to get to and service. The really good bit of the DeltaStream is that they can just plonk it in the water and it just sits there.”

Another issue that has plagued proposed tidal projects is concern that the whirling blades could kill marine life. But Williams said: “The blades themselves are thick and slow moving in comparison to other devices, so minimising the chance of impact on marine life.”

The device also has a fail-safe feature when the water currents become too powerful and threaten to destroy the turbines by dragging them across the sea floor – the propellers automatically tilt their orientation to shed the extra energy.

Pembrokeshire businessman and sustainability consultant Andy Middleton said: “People are increasingly recognising how serious global warming really is, and in St David’s we are keen to embrace our responsibility to minimise climate change. DeltaStream is developing into a perfect example of the technology that fills the need for green energy and has the added benefit of being invisible and reliable.”

The country’s first experimental tidal turbine began generating electricity in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland last year, built by Bristol-based company Marine Current Turbines. SeaGen began at about 150kW, enough for around 100 homes, but has now reached 1,200kW in testing. It had a setback early in its test phase, with the tidal streams breaking one of the blades in July.

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BBC News, December 18, 2008

_45310426_43017507A tidal turbine near the mouth of Strangford Lough has begun producing electricity at full capacity for the first time.  The SeaGen system now generates 1.2MW, the highest level of power produced by a tidal stream system anywhere in the world.

The system works like an “underwater windmill” but with rotors driven by tidal currents rather than the wind.

It has been undergoing commissioning trials since May.

SeaGen will now move towards full-operating mode for periods of up to 22 hours a day, with regular inspections and performance testing carried out.

The power generated by the system is being purchased by Irish energy company, ESB Independent, for its customers in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The turbine has the capacity to generate power to meet the average electricity needs of around 1000 homes.

Martin Wright, managing director of SeaGen developers, Marine Current Turbines, said that having the system generating at full power was an important milestone.

“It demonstrates, for the first time, the commercial potential of tidal energy as a viable alternative source of renewable energy,” he said.

“As the first mover in tidal stream turbine development, we have a significant technical lead over all rival tidal technologies that are under development.

“There are no other tidal turbines of truly commercial scale; all the competitive systems so far tested at sea are quite small, most being less than 10% the rotor area of SeaGen.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, December 15, 2008

opt2Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) recently reported quarterly financials and also recent developments:

– Deployed and tested a PowerBuoy off the coast of Spain under the wave power contract with Iberdrola

– Awarded $2.0 million from the US Department of Energy in support of OPT’s wave power project in Reedsport, Oregon

– Deployed and tested a PowerBuoy for the US Navy at a site off Marine Corps Base Hawaii, on the island of Oahu

– Ocean-tested 70 miles off the coast of New Jersey an autonomous PowerBuoy developed specifically for the US Navy’s ocean data gathering program

– Awarded $3.0 million contract from the US Navy for the second phase of their ocean data gathering program

– US Congress passes bill which provides for wave power to qualify for the US production tax credit

Dr. George Taylor, OPT’s CEO, said, “We have maintained the positive momentum with which we began the 2009 fiscal year, and have made significant progress under a number of contracts during the quarter, most notably with the US Navy and Iberdrola. In September, we deployed a PB40-rated PowerBuoy in Spain under our contract with Iberdrola, one of the world’s largest renewable energy companies. OPT also tested one of its autonomous PowerBuoy systems off the coast of New Jersey in October, under contract from the US Navy in connection with the Navy’s Deep Water Active Detection System (“DWADS”) initiative. We ended the second quarter with a PowerBuoy deployment for the US Navy in Hawaii. We have also furthered our relationship with this significant partner and announced a $3.0 million contract for participation in the second phase of the US Navy’s DWADS program.”

“We expect that the US Government’s recent expansion of the production tax credit to now include wave energy will help better position OPT competitively in the alternative energy arena. We are also gratified by signs that the Obama administration in the United States is keen on leveraging renewable energy sources as commercial sources of energy for the country. The $2.0 million award we received this quarter from the Department of Energy, in support of our work in Reedsport, Oregon, is reflective of the US Government’s support for wave energy,” Dr. Taylor concluded.

More about OPT

OPT has seen strong demand for wave energy systems as evidenced by record levels of contract order backlog, currently at $8.0 million. OPT continues to make steady progress on development of the 150 kW-rated PowerBuoy (PB150), which comprises a significant portion of our current backlog. The design of the PB150 structure is on track to be completed by the end of calendar year 2008, and is expected to be ready for complete system testing in 2009. OPT continues to work actively with an independent engineering group to attain certification of the 150 kW PowerBuoy structure design.

OPT’s patent portfolio continues to grow as one new US patent was issued during the second quarter of fiscal year 2009. The Company’s technology base now includes a total of 39 issued US patents.

During the second quarter of fiscal 2009, the Company announced that it expects to benefit from the energy production tax credit provision of the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008. Production tax credit provisions which were already in place served only to benefit other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. The Act will, for the first time, enable owners of wave power projects in the US to receive federal production tax credits, thereby improving the comparative economics of wave power as a renewable energy source.

OPT is involved in wave energy projects worldwide:

REEDSPORT, OREGON, US – OPT received a $2.0 million award from the US Department of Energy (DoE), in support of OPT’s wave power project in Reedsport, Oregon. The DoE grant will be used to help fund the fabrication, assembly and factory testing of the first PowerBuoy to be installed at the Reedsport site. This system will be a 150 kW-rated PB150 PowerBuoy, major portions of which will be fabricated and integrated in Oregon. OPT is working closely with interested stakeholder groups at local, county and state agency levels while also making steady progress on the overall permitting and licensing process.

SPAIN – OPT deployed and tested its first commercial PowerBuoy under contract with Iberdrola S.A., one of the world’s largest renewable energy companies, and its partners, at a site approximately three miles off the coast of Santona, Spain. The enhanced PB40 PowerBuoy, which incorporates OPT’s patented wave power technology, is the first step of what is expected to be a utility-grade OPT wave power station to be built-out in a later phase of the project.

ORKNEY ISLANDS, UK – OPT is working under a contract with the Scottish Government at the European Marine Energy Centre (“EMEC”) in the Orkney Islands, Scotland to deploy a 150 kW PowerBuoy. OPT is currently working on building the power conversion and power take-off sub-assemblies. The Company is also reviewing prospective suppliers for manufacturing of the PowerBuoy, which is on track to be ready for deployment by the end of calendar year 2009. As part of its agreement with EMEC, OPT has the right to sell power to the grid up to the 2MW berth capacity limit, at favorable marine energy prices.

CORNWALL, UK –The “Wave Hub” project developer, South West of England Regional Development Agency (“SWRDA”), recently appointed an engineering contractor to manage the construction of the “Wave Hub” marine energy test site. SWRDA has forecasted that the Wave Hub connections, cabling and grid connection infrastructure will be completed by the end of the 2010 calendar year. OPT continues to work with SWRDA and is monitoring its progress in developing the project site.

HAWAII, US – OPT deployed its PowerBuoy systems near Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu. The PowerBuoy was launched under OPT’s on-going program with the US Navy at a site off Marine Corps Base Hawaii and will be connected to the Oahu power grid.

US NAVY DEEP OCEAN APPLICATION – OPT tested one of its autonomous PowerBuoy systems 70 miles off the coast of New Jersey. The PowerBuoy was constructed under contract from the US Navy in connection with the Navy’s DWADS initiative, a unique program for deep ocean data gathering. The Company received a $3.0 million contract award for the second phase of the program, which is for the ocean testing of an advanced version of the autonomous PowerBuoy.

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Guardian.co.uk, December 3, 2008

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoWay back in Napoleonic Paris, a Monsieur Girard had a novel idea about energy: power from the sea. In 1799, Girard obtained a patent for a machine he and his son had designed to mechanically capture the energy in ocean waves. Wave power could be used, they figured, to run pumps and sawmills and the like.

These inventors would disappear into the mists of history, and fossil fuel would instead provide an industrializing world with almost all its energy for the next two centuries. But Girard et fils were onto something, say a growing number of modern-day inventors, engineers, and researchers. The heave of waves and the tug of tides, they say, are about to begin playing a significant role in the world’s energy future.

In the first commercial scale signal of that, last October a trio of articulated, cylinder-shaped electricity generators began undulating in the waves off the coast of Portugal. The devices look like mechanical sea snakes. (In fact, their manufacturer, Scotland’s Pelamis Wave Power Ltd., takes its name from a mythical ancient Greek sea serpent.) Each Pelamis device consists of four independently hinged segments. The segments capture wave energy like the handle of an old fashioned water pump captures the energy of a human arm: as waves rock the segments to and fro, they pump a hydraulic fluid (biodegradable, in case of spills) powerfully through a turbine, spinning it to generate up to 750,000 watts of electricity per unit. Assuming the devices continue to perform well, Portuguese utility Energis expects to soon purchase another 28 more of the generators.

The completed “wave farm” would feed its collective power onto a single high voltage sea-floor cable, adding to the Portuguese grid about 21 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power about 15,000 homes.

In a world where a single major coal or nuclear plant can produce more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity, it’s a modest start. But from New York’s East River to the offshore waters of South Korea, a host of other projects are in earlier stages of testing. Some, like Pelamis, rely on the motion of waves. Others operate like underwater windmills, tapping the power of the tides.

Ocean-powered technologies are in their infancy, still technologically well behind such energy alternatives as wind and solar. Necessarily designed to operate in an inherently harsh environment, the technologies remain largely unproven and — unless subsidized by governments — expensive. (Portugal is heavily subsidizing the Pelamis project, with an eye to becoming a major European exporter of clean green power in the future.) Little is known about the effects that large wave or tide farms might have on marine ecosystems in general.

Despite the uncertainties, however, proponents say the potential advantages are too striking to ignore. Eight hundred times denser than air, moving water packs a huge energy wallop. Like solar and wind, power from moving seas is free and clean. But sea power is more predictable than either wind or solar. Waves begin forming thousands of miles from coastlines and days in advance; tides rise and fall as dependably as the cycles of the moon. That predictability makes it easier to match supply with demand.

Roger Bedard, who leads ocean energy research at the U.S. utility-funded Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, says there’s plenty of reason for optimism about the future of what he calls “hydrodynamic” power. Within a decade, he says, the U.S. could realistically meet as much as 10% of its electricity needs from hydrodynamic power. As a point of reference, that’s about half of the electricity the U.S. produces with nuclear power today. Although he acknowledges that initial sea-powered generation projects are going to be expensive, Bedard believes that as experience grows and economies of manufacturing scale kick in, hydrodynamic power will follow the same path toward falling costs and improving technologies as other alternatives.

“Look at wind,” he says. “A kilowatt hour from wind cost fifty cents in the 1980s. Now it’s about seven cents.” (That’s about the same as producing electricity with natural gas, and only about three cents more than coal, the cheapest — and dirtiest — U.S. energy choice. Any future tax on carbon emissions could narrow that gap even more, as would additional clean-power subsidies.)

For some nations, wave and tide power could pack an even bigger punch. Estimates suggest, for instance, that the choppy seas surrounding the United Kingdom could deliver as much as 25% of its electricity. British alternative energy analyst Thomas W. Thorpe believes that on a worldwide basis, waves alone could produce as much as 2,000 terawatt hours of electricity, as much as all the planet’s major hydroelectric plants generate today.

Although none are as far along as Pelamis, most competing wave-power technologies rely not on the undulations of mechanical serpents, but instead on the power captured by the vertical bobbing of large buoys in sea swells. Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), based in New Jersey, drives the generators in its PowerBuoy with a straightforward mechanical piston. A stationary section of the mostly submerged, 90-foot buoy is anchored to the ocean floor; a second section simply moves up and down with the movement of sea swells, driving pistons that in turn drive an electrical generator. The Archimedes Wave Swing, a buoy-based system developed by Scotland’s AWS Ocean Energy, harnesses the up-and-down energy of waves by pumping air to spin its turbines. Vancouver-based Finavera Renewables uses seawater as its turbine-driving hydraulic fluid.

Although Pelamis beat all of these companies out of the commercialization gate, OPT appears to be right behind, with plans to install North America’s first commercial-scale wave power array of buoys off the coast of Oregon as early as next year. That array — occupying one square-mile of ocean and, like other wave power installations, located far from shipping lanes — would initially produce 2 megawatts of power. OPT also announced last September an agreement to install a 1.4-megawatt array off the coast of Spain. An Australian subsidiary is in a joint venture to develop a 10-megawatt wave farm off the coast of Australia.

Meanwhile, Pelamis Wave Power plans to install more of its mechanical serpents — three megawatts of generating capacity off the coast of northwest Scotland, and another five-megawatt array off Britain’s Cornwall coast.

The Cornwall installation will be one of four wave power facilities plugged into a single, 20-megawatt underwater transformer at a site called “Wave Hub.” Essentially a giant, underwater version of a socket that each developer can plug into, Wave Hub — which will be connected by undersea cable to the land-based grid — was designed as a tryout site for competing technologies. OPT has won another of the four Wave Hub berths for its buoy-based system.

Other innovators are trying to harness the power of ocean or estuarine tides. Notably, in 2007, Virginia’s Verdant Power installed on the floor of New York’s East River six turbines that look, and function, much like stubby, submerged windmills, their blades — which are 16 feet in diameter — turning at a peak rate of 32 revolutions per minute. The East River is actually a salty and powerful tidal straight that connects Long Island Sound with the Atlantic Ocean. Although the “underwater windmills” began pumping out electricity immediately, the trial has been a halting one. The strong tides quickly broke apart the turbines’ first- (fiberglass and steel) and second- (aluminum and magnesium) generation blades, dislodging mounting bolts for good measure.

Undeterred, in September Verdant Power began testing new blades made of a stronger aluminum alloy. If it can overcome the equipment-durability problems, the company hopes to install as many as 300 of its turbines in the East River, enough to power 10,000 New York homes.

A scattering of similar prototype “underwater windmill” projects have been installed at tidal sites in Norway, Northern Ireland, and South Korea. (In addition, interest in moving into freshwater sites is growing. Verdant itself hopes to install its turbines on the St. Lawrence River. At least one other company, Free Flow Power of Massachusetts, has obtained Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permits to conduct preliminary studies on an array of sites on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis.)

The environmental benefits of hydrodynamic power seem obvious: no carbon dioxide or any other emissions associated with fossil-fuel-based generation. No oil spills or nuclear waste. And for those who object to wind farms for aesthetic reasons, low-profile wave farms are invisible from distant land; tidal windmill-style turbines operate submerged until raised for maintenance.

There are, however, environmental risks associated with these technologies.

New York state regulators required Verdant Power to monitor effects of their its turbines on fish and wildlife. So far, sensors show that fish and water birds are having no trouble avoiding the blades, which rotate at a relatively leisurely 32 maximum revolutions per minute. In fact the company’s sensors have shown that fish tend to seek shelter behind rocks around the channel’s banks and stay out of the central channel entirely when tides are strongest.

But a host of other questions about environment effects remain unanswered. Will high-voltage cables stretching across the sea from wave farms somehow harm marine ecosystems? Will arrays of hundreds of buoys or mechanical serpents interfere with ocean fish movement or whale migrations? What effect will soaking up large amounts of wave energy have on shoreline organisms and ecosystems?

“Environmental effects are the greatest questions right now,” EPRI’s Bedard says, “because there just aren’t any big hydrodynamic projects in the world.”

Projects will probably have to be limited in size and number to protect the environment, he says – that’s a big part of the reason he limits his “realistic” U.S. estimate to 10% of current generation capacity. But the only way to get definitive answers on environmental impact might be to run the actual experiment — that is, to begin building the water-powered facilities, and then monitor the environment for effects.

Bedard suggests that the way to get definitive answers will be to build carefully on a model like Verdant’s: “Start very small. Monitor carefully. Build it a little bigger and monitor some more. I’d like to see it developed in an adaptive way.”

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JAMES OWEN, National Geographic News, December 2, 2008

The race is officially on for a U.S. $15 million (10 million Euro) prize for harnessing the power of the oceans.

The winning marine renewable energy innovation would provide a serious energy alternative to burning fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.

Details of the Saltire Prize Challenge were announced Tuesday in Edinburgh by Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond.

The award will go to the team that “successfully demonstrates—in Scottish waters—the best commercially viable wave or tidal technology capable of providing electricity to thousands of homes.”

The winning team must supply this electricity using only the power of the sea for a continuous two-year period.

“It is Scotland’s energy challenge to the world—a challenge to the brightest and best minds worldwide to unleash their talents and push the frontiers of innovation in green marine energy,” Salmond said.

“The Saltire Prize has the potential to unlock Scotland’s vast marine energy wealth, putting our nation at the very forefront of the battle against climate change.”

The prize, named after the cross of St. Andrew on the Scottish national flag, was inspired by other innovation competitions such as the U.S. $10 million Ansari X Prize.

That contest led to the first private spacecraft launch in 2004.

“Saudi Arabia of Ocean Energy”

Scotland boasts a quarter of Europe’s tidal power potential, according to Salmond.

He described the Pentland Firth, a region between Scotland’s north coast and the Orkney Islands, as the “Saudi Arabia of renewable marine energy.”

Scotland aims to meet 50% of its electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020.

There’s also huge potential for ocean energy globally, said prize committee member Terry Garcia, executive vice president for mission programs for the National Geographic Society. “It’s not going to be the sole solution to our energy needs,” Garcia said, but “this will be one of the important pieces of the puzzle.” The main purpose of the competition is to act as a catalyst for innovation, Garcia added.

“It’s both about making marine energy economically viable and being able to produce it in a sustained way on a large scale,” he said.

Wave and Tidal Power

The two major types of ocean energy are wave and tidal energy.

Wave energy technology involves floating modules with internal generators, which produce electricity as they twist about on the sea surface.

Tidal energy harnesses tidal currents with arrays of underwater turbines similar to those that propel wind farms.

Tidal ranks among the most reliable renewable energies because tides are highly predictable, said AbuBakr Bahaj, head of the University of Southampton’s Sustainable Energy Research Group in the U.K.

“But wave energy is driven by wind, which is notoriously difficult to predict,” he said.

Even so, wave power may have the higher electricity-generating potential.

In Britain, for instance, it’s estimated that wave power could potentially provide 20% of the country’s total electricity supply, against 5-10%for tidal power, Bahaj said.

The scientist says the main technical challenge is to create reliable power installations that can operate in difficult marine environments for five to ten years without maintenance.

“You also need to have multiple devices working together at each site,” he said.

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Energy Central News, December 02, 2008

Vestas Wind Systems has received an order to supply 100 units of its V90-3MW wind turbine for installation at the Thanet offshore wind farm, 11.3km offshore from Foreness Point in the Thames Estuary on the easternmost part of the Kent coastline in the UK. The order has been placed by Vattenfall Wind Power.

The order comprises design, supply, construction, testing and commissioning of the 100 wind turbines as well as a five-year operation and maintenance contract. Vattenfall is responsible for foundations, offshore and onshore cables with substations and offshore installation vessels.

Delivery of the turbines is expected to take place during 2009 and 2010, and installation of the wind power plant will take place in 2010.

Anders Dahl, head of Vattenfall wind power, said: “As Vestas is one of the world leaders within wind power manufacturing, we feel very confident in choosing Vestas to supply turbines for the Thanet offshore wind farm. Being one of the first Round 2 projects to be built, it is of utmost importance that the Thanet wind farm becomes a success and it is our firm conviction that the agreement with Vestas helps to ensure the commitment needed to make this a reality.”

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TERRY MACALISTER, The Guardian/UK, November 7, 2008

BP has dropped all plans to build wind farms and other renewable schemes in Britain and is instead concentrating the bulk of its $8bn (£5bn) renewables spending programme on the US, where government incentives for clean energy projects can provide a convenient tax shelter for oil and gas revenues.

The decision is a major blow to the prime minister, Gordon Brown, who has promised to sweep away all impediments to ensure Britain is at the forefront of the green energy revolution. BP and Shell – which has also pulled out of renewables in Britain – are heavily influential among investors.

BP has advertised its green credentials widely in the UK and has a representative on the ruling board of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA). But it said difficulty in getting planning permission and lower economies of scale made the UK wind sector far less attractive than that of the US.

“The best place to get a strong rate of return for wind is the US,” said a BP spokesman, who confirmed the group had shelved ideas of building an onshore wind farm at the Isle of Grain, in Kent, and would not bid for any offshore licences.

BP has enormous financial firepower as a result of recent very high crude oil prices. Its move away from wind power in Britain follows a decision by Shell to sell off its stake in the London Array project off Kent, potentially the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

Shell gave the same reasons as BP for that move, saying the economics of UK wind were poor compared to those onshore across the Atlantic, where incoming president Barack Obama has promised to spend $150bn over 10 years to kick start a renewable energy revolution .

BP said about $1.5bn would be spent next year on US wind projects and the company expected to spend the $8bn up to the year 2015.

BP is still proceeding with some limited solar, biofuels and other schemes, but the vast majority of its time and energy is now being concentrated on wind. By the end of 2008, BP expects to have one gigawatt of US wind power installed and plans to have trebled this by 2010.

The BWEA shrugged off BP’s decision. “The offshore wind market is evolving and getting stronger. Different investors will come and go at different stages of the development cycle. But whoever the players are, we know that the offshore industry will be generating massive amounts of electricity for the UK market in the next few years,” said a spokesman.

Britain is not the only country to miss out on BP’s largesse. The company said yesterday it was also pulling out of China, India and Turkey, where it had also been looking at projects.

BP had formed a joint venture with Beijing Tianrun New Energy Investment Company, a subsidiary of Goldwind, China’s largest turbine maker. The two companies had signed a deal in January under which they planned 148.4MW of wind capacity in Inner Mongolia, China’s main wind power region. BP had also started building two wind farms in India and was considering schemes in Turkey. It is now expecting to sell off the Indian facilities and halt work in Turkey.

Green campaigners have been highly sceptical about BP’s plans to go “beyond petroleum” and feared that the company’s new chief executive, Tony Hayward, would drop this commitment, started under his predecessor, John Browne.

The company has always insisted it remained keen to look at green energy solutions and has been investing in biofuels operations in Brazil. BP is also in the middle of a major marketing campaign, with huge posters on the London Underground boasting of its moves to diversify into wind and other energy sources.

The Carbon Trust, a government-funded organisation established to help Britain move from carbon to clean energy, recently published a major report warning ministers that the costs of building wind farms offshore was too high. There was speculation that BP was a major influence on that study, which proposed that turbines should be allowed to be placed much nearer to the shore.

The Crown Estate, which has responsibility for UK inshore waters, is still confident that a long-awaited third offshore wind licensing round in the North Sea will attract a record number of bidders. It has already registered 96 companies, although it has not released names and BP and Shell will clearly be absent.

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ALOK JHA, The Guardian, October 21, 2008

The United Kingdom now leads the world in generating electricity from offshore wind farms, the government said today as it completed the construction of a farm near the coast off Skegness, Lincolnshire.

The new farm, built by the energy company Centrica, will produce enough power for 130,000 homes, raising the total electricity generated from offshore wind in the UK to 590 megawatts (MW), enough for 300,000 UK homes.

The completion of 194MW of turbines at Lynn and Inner Dowsing means that the UK has overtaken Denmark, which has 423MW of offshore wind turbines.

“Offshore wind is hugely important to help realize the government’s ambition to dramatically increase the amount of energy from renewable sources. Overtaking Denmark is just the start,” said Mike O’Brien, a minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. “There are already five more offshore windfarms under construction that will add a further 938MW to our total by the end of next year.”

But despite today’s announcement, the UK is still near the bottom of the European league table when it comes to harnessing renewable energy, campaigners say.

Nick Rau, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy campaigner, said: “The government must stop trying to wriggle out of European green energy targets and put a massive effort into making renewable power the number one source of energy in the UK. The UK has one of the biggest renewable energy potentials in Europe – this must be harnessed to make this country a world leader in tackling climate change.”

Maria McCaffery, the chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association, was enthusiastic but also urged more government action. “We are now a global leader in a renewable energy technology for the first time ever. Now is the time to step up the effort even further and secure the huge potential for jobs, investment and export revenues that offshore wind has for Britain.”

Greenpeace chief scientist, Doug Parr, said the only downside was that many of the turbines for the UK windfarms were being manufactured abroad. “We need a green new deal for renewable energy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs and providing a shot in the arm to the British manufacturing sector. If the government now diverts serious financial and political capital towards this project it will put Britain in pole position to tackle the emerging challenges of the 21st century.”

The UK currently gets 3GW of electricity from wind power, but 80% of that is from onshore farms. On Tuesday, the Carbon Trust detailed its plans to accelerate the development of offshore wind in the UK. The trust plans to work with major energy companies on a £30m initiative to cut the cost of offshore wind energy by 10%.

“The UK has an amazing opportunity not just to lead the world but to be the dominant global player,” said Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust. “Our research shows that by 2020 the UK market could represent almost half of the global market for offshore wind power. To make that happen it will be critical to improve the current economics of offshore wind power.”

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, September 23, 2008

For years, technological visionaries have painted a seductive vision of using ocean tides and waves to produce power. They foresee large installations off the coast and in tidal estuaries that could provide as much as 10% of the nation’s electricity.

But the technical difficulties of making such systems work are proving formidable. Last year, a wave-power machine sank off the Oregon coast. Blades have broken off experimental tidal turbines in New York’s turbulent East River. Problems with offshore moorings have slowed the deployment of snakelike generating machines in the ocean off Portugal.

Years of such problems have discouraged ocean-power visionaries, but have not stopped them. Lately, spurred by rising costs for electricity and for the coal and other fossil fuels used to produce it, they are making a new push to overcome the barriers blocking this type of renewable energy.

The Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power plans to turn on a small wave-energy farm — the world’s first — off the coast of Portugal by year’s end, after fixing the broken moorings. Finavera Renewables, a Canadian company that recently salvaged its sunken, $2.5 million Oregon wave-power machine, has signed an agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric to produce power off the California coast by 2012. And in the East River, just off Manhattan, two newly placed turbines with tougher blades and rotors are feeding electricity into a grocery store and parking garage on Roosevelt Island.

“It’s frustrating sometimes as an ocean energy company to say, yeah, your device sank,” said Jason Bak, chief executive of Finavera. “But that is technology development.”

Roughly 100 small companies around the world are working on converting the sea’s power to electricity. Many operate in Europe, where governments have pumped money into the industry. Companies and governments alike are betting that over time, costs will come down. Right now, however, little electricity is being generated from the ocean except at scattered test sites around the world.

The East River — despite its name, it is really a tidal strait with powerful currents — is the site of the most advanced test project in the United States.

Verdant Power, the company that operates it, was forced to spend several years and millions of dollars mired in a slow permit process, even before its turbine blades broke off in the currents. The company believes it is getting a handle on the problems. Verdant is trying to perfect its turbines and then install 30 of them in the East River, starting no later than spring 2010, and to develop other sites in Canada and on the West Coast.

Plenty of other start-ups also plan commercial ocean-power plants, at offshore sites such as Portugal, Oregon and Wales, but none have been built.

Ocean-power technology splits into two broad categories, tidal and wave power. Wave power, of the sort Finavera is pursuing, entails using the up and down motions of the waves to generate electricity. Tidal power — Verdant’s province — involves harnessing the action of the tides with underwater turbines, which twirl like wind machines.

(Decades-old tidal technologies in France and Canada use barrage systems that trap water at high tide; they are far larger and more obtrusive than the new, below-waterline technologies.)

A third type of power, called ocean thermal, aims to exploit temperature differences between the surface and deep ocean, mainly applicable in the tropics.

Ocean power has more potential than wind power because water is about 850 times denser than air, and therefore packs far more energy. The ocean’s waves, tides and currents are also more predictable than the wind.

The drawback is that seawater can batter and corrode machinery, and costly undersea cables may be needed to bring the power to shore. And the machines are expensive to build: Pelamis has had to raise the equivalent of $77 million.

Many solar start-ups, by contrast, need as little as $5 million to build a prototype, said Martin Lagod, co-founder of Firelake Capital Management, a Silicon Valley investment firm. Mr. Lagod looked at investing in ocean power a few years ago and decided against it because of the long time horizons and large capital requirements.

General Electric, which builds wind turbines, solar panels and other equipment for virtually every other type of energy, has stayed clear of ocean energy. “At this time, these sources do not appear to be competitive with more scalable alternatives like wind and solar,” said Daniel Nelson, a G.E. spokesman, in an e-mail message. (An arm of G.E. has made a small investment in Pelamis.)

Worldwide, venture capital going to ocean-power companies has risen from $8 million in 2005 to $82 million last year, according to the Cleantech Group, a research firm. However, that is a tiny fraction of the money pouring into solar energy and biofuels.

This month the Energy Department doled out its first major Congressionally-funded grants since 1992 to ocean-power companies, including Verdant and Lockheed Martin, which is studying ocean thermal approaches.

Assuming that commercial ocean-power farms are eventually built, the power is likely to be costly, especially in the near term. A recent study commissioned by the San Francisco Public Utility Commission put the cost of harnessing the Golden Gate’s tides at 85 cents to $1.40 a kilowatt-hour, or roughly 10 times the cost of wind power. San Francisco plans to forge ahead regardless.

Other hurdles abound, including sticky environmental and aesthetic questions. In Oregon, crabbers worry that the wave farm proposed by Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey company, would interfere with their prime crabbing grounds.

“It’s right where every year we deploy 115,000 to 120,000 crab pots off the coast for an eight-month period to harvest crab,” said Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. The commission wants to support renewable energy, but “we’re kind of struggling with that,” Mr. Furman said

George Taylor, chief executive of Ocean Power Technologies, said he did not expect “there will be a problem with the crabs.”

In Washington State, where a utility is studying the possibility of installing tidal power at the Admiralty Inlet entrance to Puget Sound, scuba divers are worried, even as they recognize the need for clean power.

Said Mike Racine, president of the Washington Scuba Alliance: “We don’t want to be dodging turbine blades, right?”

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Platts/McGraw-Hill, August 2008

The burgeoning wave energy sector, which has endured ups and downs in recent years through initial testing of devices and uncertain government support, has recently set sail with new projects that have brought the industry to the brink of commercial development.

Portugal has established its role as a pioneer in wave energy development. Through the Aguçadoura project off the coast of northern Portugal, for instance, Enersis and its technology partner Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power (PWP) completed initial deployment of a 750-kW PWP wave-power unit, in August 2008, that generated electricity for the Portuguese grid, a source familiar with the initiative told Platts. The unit initially encountered difficulties with buoyancy, but these problems were solved, the source noted.

Though the system did not reach peak generation, it produced “hundreds of kilowatts,” he said, adding that it has since been disconnected to prove it can be returned to harbor for inspection of the component parts. “Everything is in very good order,” the source added. The Aguçadoura project partners are looking to have three 750-kW machines ready by September 2008. The goal is to have 30 machines deployed within a few years exceeding 20 MW – a venture that could expand “up to 500 MW,” the source said.

The Portuguese government is supporting the project by a feed-in tariff provided specifically for marine energy of about €0.23/kWh (US36¢/kWh), according to PWP’s Web site.

Portugal has established its role as a pioneer in wave energy development, with national institute Instituto Superior Técnico studying the technology since 1977. It boasts a 250-350-kilometer (150-220 mile) stretch of coast deemed suitable for wave-energy exploitation.

Other companies are looking to join the rush in Portugal for wave power, as developers Tecdragon, EDP and Eneólica take major steps in experimental development.

Additionally, Portuguese steel construction giant Martifer has created a joint marine-energy venture with Scottish Briggs, while Generg conducts research and planning for a wave energy plant.

EDP, Portugal’s largest power utility, is in the final stages of talks to install wave energy demonstration projects in Portugal. This deployment would follow the company’s participation in a review of more than 50 offshore wave energy technologies. Final site selection has begun on one EDP project known as the Breakwave, a system financed with €2 million ($3.1 million) of European Union funds that uses oscillating water column technology.

More advanced is Tecdragon, which aims to install in Portugal’s São Pedro de Moel pilot zone the first world’s 7-MW wave-energy plant. “Until now the start of installation was not possible due to adverse meteorological conditions,” explained Tecdragon Manager Borges da Cunha. The system would be based on Wave Dragon technology, which the company describes as a “floating, slack-moored energy converter” that meshes current offshore and hydropower turbine technology. Wave Dragon, the company said, is the only wave energy converter being developed that can be freely scaled up.

António Sarmento, director of Portugal’s Wave Energy Center, said that over the next 30 years Portugal could invest €5 billion ($7.8 billion) to install up to 5 GW of wave energy capacity along its western coast and along the coasts of its Madeira and Azores islands.

Another EU member is jockeying with Portugal to become the world leader in wave energy deployment – and to reap the anticipated benefits in new jobs and export earnings that the emerging marine energy industry is expected to generate.

The UK wave power sector moved ahead on July 30 when Jim Mather, minister of enterprise and energy for the Scottish regional government, commissioned a 100-kw Wavegen turbine. Scotland offers developers some of the world’s best wave-power levels.

The 100-kW turbine is “a major step forward,” the Scottish government said, for the Siadar Wave Energy Project, which is being developed by Npower Renewables, RWE Innogy’s UK operating company, on the Scottish isle of Lewis. Npower Renewables submitted planning applications in April for SWEP, which would generate up to 4 MW using 40 Wavegen 100-kW turbines.

If the Scottish government approves the plans, construction could start as early as 2009 and would take an estimated 18 months to complete.

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ERICA GIES, eMagazine.com, May 2008

Wales, a beautiful corner of the United Kingdom on the western edge of England, helped fuel Britain’s industrial revolution, not to mention its pea-soup pollution “fogs.” The mining of vast quantities of coal from its southern valleys for two centuries enabled the British to go forth and conquer the world. Now, with global warming an increasing concern, Britain is shifting away from coal and toward renewable energy, striving for targets set in concert with other European Union (EU) member countries. Britain’s commitment to generate 15% of total energy—including electricity, heat and transport fuels—from renewables by 2020 sounds impressive in the absence of a national U.S. target. But 17 of the 27 EU countries have higher targets, including top-flight Sweden with 49%.

Since gaining some degree of autonomy from the United Kingdom in 1999, Wales is now setting more aggressive targets for itself. For example, it aims to be self-sufficient in renewable and low-carbon electricity by 2025. Such programs receive cautious welcome from environmental nonprofits, but they have concerns. According to Neil Crumpton, energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth in Wales, “What ministers announce and what is likely to happen are two very different things…. The targets are usually not backed by policies and funding that will deliver.”

Environmental groups also say they’d like to see government put more resources into conservation as well as new sources of generation. And when it comes to the latter, they would give priority to home-based solar and wind devices, because it’s educational and encourages thriftiness. Critics gain ammunition to question focus and commitment because of the many layers of government bureaucracy—from Wales, the UK and the EU.

When discussing Wales’ commitment to make all new buildings zero carbon by 2011, Environment Minister Jane Davidson admitted that jurisdiction can slow things down. “Well, it’s one of these areas which is complicated by the fact that the majority of the responsibility for the area lies with the UK government,” she says. “So what we can do as a Welsh Assembly Government is relatively limited.”

Still, Wales perseveres. In an attempt to boost its knowledge economy, the Welsh Assembly Government has created 11 Technium Innovation Centers to drive enterprise and innovation in Wales. Companies accepted into a Technium benefit from the state-of-the-art facilities, university expertise, and business support. Some start-ups have found the program a lifesaver, while others complain it is bureaucratic or avoid it entirely. And Wales is launching a wide range of projects, from a 350-megawatt (MW), wood chip-fueled biomass plant to increasing offshore wind to 33 gigawatts by 2020 (requiring 7,000 turbines). There are also solar projects, wave and tidal energy and innovative waste reclamation for energy.

Robert Hertzberg, former Speaker of the California State Assembly, founded a solar company called G24i in Cardiff, and high-tech dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) technology started rolling off machines in November. G24i is the first company in the world to manufacture this technology in a flexible coating, and its first product is a cell phone charger sold in developing countries. However, Hertzberg plans to expand soon to building-integrated materials, putting solar inside light fixtures, window blinds, and more.

Hertzberg said he chose Wales because Europe is much more receptive to renewable energy than the U.S., but he largely avoided the state incentive plan because he believes in operating independently and wanted to get his company up and running quickly. “In all governments, you just get stuck in the morass of bureaucracy,” he says. “And if you accept a dollar, you have so many conditions. It’s not worth it.” With a new 2.5 MW windmill on the property, G24i has covered the company’s current energy usage and is planning an on-site learning center to teach people about renewable energy.

Harnessing the ocean’s restless energy has long been the dream of scientists, but making it a commercial reality has mostly eluded entrepreneurs. Iain Russell is the local manager of Wave Dragon, a floating, slack-moored wave energy converter composed of vertical turbines near the water’s surface. It’s stationed close enough to shore to transmit power to customers via underwater transmission lines. Wave Dragon is trying to get its 7 MW prototype into the water off Pembrokeshire for a test run. But as a small developer, it had to apply for a government grant and has been making its way through consultations, environmental impact assessments and approvals since 2005.

“There is no existing approval process for offshore wave energy installations,” says Russell. “Several years and millions of pounds may be OK for a 300 MW offshore wind farm, but for a small wave developer whose device will only be in the water for a year or two, the process is not proportional.” Several competitors around the world are working on and testing prototypes, and Wave Dragon has tested a prototype in Denmark. Another company permanently connected its device to the Italian grid from the Straits of Messina in 2006.

Wales’ Severn Estuary has the second highest tidal range in the world. The lure of exploiting that energy has called out particularly loudly in recent years due to global warming, energy security concerns and rising fossil fuel costs. But the estuary is also protected by several national and international wildlife designations, so the debate is on.

The British government is currently considering two tidal technologies. One, essentially a dam called a barrage, uses the energy difference between high and low tides. The other, a tidal lagoon, consists of offshore catchment pools that would channel energy without blocking the entire river. Although the currently study is looking at different sized facilities, the largest would supply 4.4% of Britain’s electricity, or 0.6% of its total energy. It would also reduce less than 1% of its carbon emissions for an estimated cost of $29 billion and not come online until 2022.

“Harnessing the Severn will produce a long-term renewable energy source for Wales and also the UK,” said Jane Davidson, Wales’ minister for environment, sustainability and housing.

Most Green groups are vehemently opposed, both because of the destruction of rare habitat and because they say the project is a boondoggle that diverts time and money from energy efficiency, conservation and less environmentally damaging renewable energy technologies that would come online more quickly.

Britain is also considering in-stream tidal projects, which Matt Lumley of the Nova Scotia Department of Energy says are like underwater windmills that harness kinetic energy and have environmental and economic footprints much lighter than that of barrage technology. A tidal-stream “farm” is planned off the coast of north Wales, near Anglesey, and subject to approval could be completed by 2011. Its seven turbines could power 6,000 homes.

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CLAIRE BATES, The Daily Mail, July 17, 2008

The first ever commercial electricity powered by the tides has been put on the National Grid, project managers said today.

The £10million SeaGen turbine based in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough generated enough green energy to supply 150 homes in a test. Full-blown production is expected in a few weeks’ time.

The SeaGen in Strangford Lough will generate 1.2 megawatts of power at full capacity

Working like an underwater windmill, the turbine’s two rotors are propelled by some of the world’s fastest tidal flows that stream in and out of the Lough at speeds of up to 8 knots.

It is moored to the sea floor 400 metres from the shore and will work for about 20 hours each day. No energy is generated during tide changes as tidal speed drops to below 2 knots.

The SeaGen has two rotors that will revolve 10 to 15 times a minute

Once fully operational Seagen, run by Marine Current Turbines (MCT) Ltd, will generate 1.2 megawatts of hydropower, supplying the equivalent of 1,000 homes.

Managing director Martin Wright said: ‘This is an important milestone for the company and indeed the development of the marine renewable energy sector as a whole.

‘SeaGen, MCT, tidal power and the UK Government’s push for marine renewables all now have real momentum.’

Tidal energy is generated by the relative motion of the Earth, Sun and Moon, which interact via gravitational forces.

Although more expensive to develop it is far more predictable than wind energy or solar power.

Energy Secretary John Hutton said: ‘This kind of world-first technology and innovation is key to helping the UK reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and secure its future energy supplies.

‘Marine power has the potential to play an important role in helping us meet our challenging targets for a massive increase in the amount of energy generated from renewables.’

Strangford is a breeding ground for common seals, but the company said the speed of the rotors is so low – no more than 10 to 15 revolutions per minute – that they are unlikely to pose a threat to marine wildlife.

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openPR.co.uk, July 23, 2008

Plans announced yesterday for a study into the feasibility of wind and wave farms off the coast of Northern Ireland and Scotland were heralded as a positive step forward by The Renewable Energy Centre

Costing 1.6 million and funded mainly by Inter-Reg, an EU (European Union) funded programme, the study will begin later this year. The west coast of Scotland and the North and North East coast of Ireland have a huge potential to harness both wind and wave power. The study will investigate the possibility of establishing a grid infrastructure between the two locations which would allow for an offshore transmission network. This would attract commercial investors and the area could become one of the key supply chains of renewable energy for Scotland and the UK.

Scotland has already committed to an ambitious target of sourcing 50% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020 and this study could pave the way to a successful achievement of this goal. Tim Mather, Scotland’s Energy Minister said “To realise the potential of the huge wind, wave and tidal resources at our disposal, we need to examine the longer term development of our grid infrastructure. Scotland, we believe has never been in better shape to become the green energy capital of Europe and in turn, a renewables powerhouse”

The Renewable Energy Centre said it was a positive move forward for the renewable energy industry and the grid infrastructure. The Centre has already highlighted the issues many investors are experiencing with delays because of grid access and transmission and this study shows that efforts are being made to create a grid network which will support the future of the UK’s energy supply.

The Energy Minister for Northern Ireland agreed saying “We have a vast wealth of free natural resources that we can harness to provide ourselves with a clean and sustainable source of energy”

The Renewable Energy Centre said that more effort to upgrade and prepare the national grid could not come soon enough and that if the UK was to continue to flourish in the wind, wave and tidal industry improvements needed to be planned and implemented without delay.

Richard Simmons Managing Director at The Renewable Energy Centre said “The renewable industry is forging ahead in order to ensure the UK’s future energy supply but as usual our infrastructure is sadly lacking. This has been known for many years and still upgrades and necessary works to support this new industry are hampering projects all over the UK. The Beauly Denny line which would open up the east coast of Scotland has been in planning application since 2005 and is still nowhere near being finalised. Much of the national grid will need to be upgraded in the next 5 to 10 years but at this rate it will seriously affect the progress of the renewable energy industry.”

The Renewable Energy Centre stated that the government and Ofgem needed to work together and formulate a strategic and definite plan of development in order to maintain the momentum gathering the renewables industry. It said that now was the time for the government to act and move the UK forward in order to not only achieve its European Union targets but surpass them.

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Atom.ex.ac.uk, July 21, 2008

As Europe’s largest ocean energy research programme launches, one of its participants speaks of the huge potential for the South West to become a leader in wave energy development.

Professor George Smith of the University of Exeter is a member of EquiMar, a group of 62 scientists from 11 European countries working together to combine knowledge and expertise in marine energy. They aim to drive forward research so that the potential of renewable energy from waves and tides can be realised. EquiMar will be officially launched at the World Renewable Energy Conference (WREC) in Glasgow on July 22, 2008.

Professor Smith is the Scottish and Southern Energy Associate Professor in renewable energy. He leads the renewable energy group, which is part of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth Resources on the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus and says: “The South West of England has a strong commitment to increasing its renewable energy generation as demonstrated by the proposed Wave Hub project off the North Cornwall Coast. Marine Renewable Energy, both wave and tidal, has the potential to provide a significant contribution to the UK’s “green energy” and to the EU target for reduction in carbon emissions. Surrounded by sea, the South West is clearly in a strong position to contribute to this. One of the main barriers to realising the potential is that we still don’t have enough information on the amount of energy that can be realistically extracted from the devices available. EquiMar seeks to produce guidelines that will allow fair evaluation of the potential of the many different technologies. EquiMar has the potential to guide the way forward from demonstration projects like the Wave Hub to the next stage of fully commercial projects. We must act now to ensure that marine renewable can achieve the undoubted potential and contribution to the UK energy mix.”

According to the Dr David Ingram, the Scottish scientist launching EquiMar, marine energy has 10 years to prove itself as a viable technology or risk being eclipsed by other energy sources. Dr Ingram will tell delegates at the WREC conference in Glasgow that time is running out for marine solutions to the world’s energy crisis unless scientists and environmentalists work together.

Dr David Ingram of the University of Edinburgh is coordinator of the European Commission funded project, a €5.5 million programme linking European top research centres and leading device developers to examine the potential of, and identify the barriers to establishing, a marine energy industry. The project has been given three years support by the European Commission to come up with templates to identify viable wave and tidal energy devices and optimal locations so marine energy can be developed commercially and to help to meet the ambitious supply targets set by governments for renewable energy.

According to Dr Ingram: “Every day scientists, inventors and keen amateurs are applying for grants to test their prototypes. Some are promising – many will never work outside the limited test environment of the bath or kitchen sink. Governments need yardsticks by which they can measure the likely success of marine energy systems before backing them. At present we know more about the surface of the moon than parts of the sea bed – both environments demand scientific precision and the toughest possible equipment. Improved national and European funding will help resolve these problems and support the pioneering developers, to progress from testing devices to placing them in the open ocean environment. Good policies are as important as good science at this stage of Ocean Energy development.”

The EquiMar (“Equitable Testing and Evaluation of Marine Energy Devices in terms of Performance, Cost and Environmental Impact”) project is one of two projects funded in the first round of Framework Programme 7, by the European Commission. EquiMar is a €5.5M project, involving 23 partners from 11 different countries, coordinated by the University of Edinburgh including major developers, universities, test sites, research laboratories, a certification agency, a utility and a journalist, bringing together international expertise across a wide range of disciplines. The project will run for three years from mid April 2008. EquiMar’s primary aim is to deliver guidelines so funding agencies, policy makers and investors can fairly judge different technologies and sites.

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EnvironmentalResearchWeb.org, Jul 22, 2008

Of all the renewable technologies, wave and tidal energy is currently the most expensive way of producing energy. But a project in the UK hopes to help this technology move along the learning curve and bring down costs.

When installed in 2010, Wave Hub will be the world’s first large-scale wave farm. Just off the coast of Cornwall in south-west England, Wave Hub will consist of four berths, each with a maximum capacity of 5 MW. These four berths will be connected to onshore electrical equipment via a 25 km long sub-sea cable. The water at the deployment site is approximately 50 metres deep and the project will cover an area of sea measuring 4 km by 2 km.

Wave Hub is designed to be a place where companies and researchers can develop and test their marine energy devices as a final stage towards commercialisation. Each wave device developer will be granted a lease of between five and 10 years in an area of approximately two square kilometres. The total number of devices to be deployed at Wave Hub is not expected to exceed 30.

“Getting planning consent for marine energy devices can be a lengthy and challenging process which often slows down their development,” says Nick Harrington, general manager for the Wave Hub project at the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA). “Wave Hub provides companies with a consented sea area in which to test their devices. It also provides a grid connection, monitoring and testing support, a power purchase agreement, access to suppliers and a research base, and opportunities to collaborate with other companies.”

In order to get planning consent for Wave Hub, the SWRDA carried out a detailed environmental impact assessment. This involved an analysis of the potential impacts of the project on different parts of the environment. This includes the effects of laying the cable (most of which will be offshore) and the impacts of the likely arrays of wave energy devices on marine ecology, fisheries, recreational users and navigation.

“The environmental impact of the Wave Hub will be much lower than other proposed schemes such as the Severn Tidal Barrage,” says Harrington. “The devices float on the water and will have very little impact on waves reaching the shore. There will be very little terrestrial land-take, with only one cable coming ashore, terminating near the site of a disused power station.”

Harrington believes the construction of Wave Hub could be very quick, taking about eight weeks to complete, but admits there are still some major challenges ahead before Wave Hub is finally installed. “We are conscious that the economic environment is quite challenging. The rising cost of oil has led to a boom in oil and gas exploration, which has increased substantially the cost of hiring vessels needed to install Wave Hub. Volatile markets have also seen significant increases in the cost of copper, which has increased the cost of the cable that will be laid between Wave Hub and the mainland.”

The first four berths have already been allocated to Oceanlinx, Ocean Power Technologies, Fred Olsen and WestWave, a consortium of E.On and Ocean Prospect.

“Wave and tidal energy is currently in the same position on the learning curve that wind energy was a few years ago,” says Harrington. “Doing anything at sea is costly and difficult but Wave Hub will help companies bring those costs down and help make wave energy a viable renewable energy solution for the future. The UK has one of the largest wave energy resources in Europe. Allowing for technical, practical and environmental limitations, according to The Carbon Trust, wave energy could generate up to one sixth of the UK’s electricity consumption. By 2020 the wave energy market in the UK could by worth £0.2 billion.”

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THOMAS O’KILL, Education Business Mgr, HP-UK, July 7, 2008

I am the education business manager for the Personal Systems Group (PSG) at HP United Kingdom and I would like to tell you about a great project we are supporting: Solar Powered Cars.

Although a worldwide sponsorship (with solar races across the globe), given the group running and designing the car are UK based, I am the main liaison point for HP with the team and ensured the sponsorship got off the ground.

HP has recently announced that it is sponsoring the Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER) team, including providing its latest technology that will be used to enhance the design, build and operation of the solar racing vehicle as it prepares to race in the 2009 World Solar Challenge.

CUER’s first big test took place in June 2008 when their inaugural car, “Affinity”, drove from Land’s End in Cornwall, UK to John O’Groats in Northern Scotland, using only the power of the sun’s energy. Admittedly, some bad weather along the way – it is British summertime after all – meant that there were a few sections when the car had to be put on a trailer. But all in all, it was a great success.

HP mobile workstations, handhelds and business notebooks were used to manage and analyse solar power consumption, mechanical performance and environmental data. Enabling the support team to tell the driver how to adjust his driving style in order to get the most efficient power consumption and keep driving.

They will be entering the same car in the Zero Rally Africathat travels 4,000 km (2,485 miles) from Victoria Falls in Zambia, via Namibia to Cape Town in South Africa, during 10 days in January 2009, followed by a completely newly designed and built car for the World Solar Challenge on 18-25 October 2009 in Australia. The World Solar Challenge goes from Darwin in the Northern Territories to Adelaide, in South Australia, covering a distance of 3,000 km (1,865 miles). HP’s powerful xw8600 workstations will be used to design the new car, which they hope will be a good challenger for solar honours.

I am closely following the team’s progress and am looking forward to the next big test – Zero Rally Africa. At least the weather will be less wet (and somewhat warmer) than during the test drive in the UK.

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EPSRC in the U.K., July 3, 2008

A device consisting of a giant rubber tube may hold the key to producing affordable electricity from the energy in sea waves.

Invented in the UK, the ‘Anaconda’ is a totally innovative wave energy concept. Its ultra-simple design means it would be cheap to manufacture and maintain, enabling it to produce clean electricity at lower cost than other types of wave energy converter. Cost has been a key barrier to deployment of such converters to date.

Named after the snake of the same name because of its long thin shape, the Anaconda is closed at both ends and filled completely with water. It is designed to be anchored just below the sea’s surface, with one end facing the oncoming waves.

A wave hitting the end squeezes it and causes a ‘bulge wave’* to form inside the tube. As the bulge wave runs through the tube, the initial sea wave that caused it runs along the outside of the tube at the same speed, squeezing the tube more and more and causing the bulge wave to get bigger and bigger. The bulge wave then turns a turbine fitted at the far end of the device and the power produced is fed to shore via a cable.

Because it is made of rubber, the Anaconda is much lighter than other wave energy devices (which are primarily made of metal) and dispenses with the need for hydraulic rams, hinges and articulated joints. This reduces capital and maintenance costs and scope for breakdowns.

The Anaconda is, however, still at an early stage of development. The concept has only been proven at very small laboratory-scale, so important questions about its potential performance still need to be answered. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and in collaboration with the Anaconda’s inventors and with its developer (Checkmate SeaEnergy), engineers at the University of Southampton are now embarking on a programme of larger-scale laboratory experiments and novel mathematical studies designed to do just that.

Using tubes with diameters of 0.25 and 0.5 metres, the experiments will assess the Anaconda’s behaviour in regular, irregular and extreme waves. Parameters measured will include internal pressures, changes in tube shape and the forces that mooring cables would be subjected to. As well as providing insights into the device’s hydrodynamic behaviour, the data will form the basis of a mathematical model that can estimate exactly how much power a full-scale Anaconda would produce.

When built, each full-scale Anaconda device would be 200 metres long and 7 metres in diameter, and deployed in water depths of between 40 and 100 metres. Initial assessments indicate that the Anaconda would be rated at a power output of 1MW (roughly the electricity consumption of 2000 houses) and might be able to generate power at a cost of 6p per kWh or less. Although around twice as much as the cost of electricity generated from traditional coal-fired power stations, this compares very favourably with generation costs for other leading wave energy concepts.

“The Anaconda could make a valuable contribution to environmental protection by encouraging the use of wave power,” says Professor John Chaplin, who is leading the EPSRC-funded project. “A one-third scale model of the Anaconda could be built next year for sea testing and we could see the first full-size device deployed off the UK coast in around five years’ time.”

Notes for Editors:

The two-year project ‘The Hydrodynamics of a Distensible Wave Energy Converter’ is receiving EPSRC funding of just over £430,000.

The Anaconda was invented by Francis Farley (an experimental physicist) and Rod Rainey (of Atkins Oil and Gas). Manufacturing rights for the Anaconda now belong to Checkmate SeaEnergy, part of the Checkmate Group. There may be advantages in making part of the tube inelastic, but this is still under assessment.

*A bulge wave is a wave of pressure produced when a fluid oscillates forwards and backwards inside a tube.

The mathematical studies undertaken by the EPSRC-funded project are novel because the Anaconda’s response to pressures induced by surface waves is much more complex than that of a ship or an offshore structure. It has many more degrees of freedom, and motions of each kind (vertical and horizontal bending, bulging, stretching, ovalling, twisting) all interact because of the compliant nature of the rubber.

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SEVERIN CARRELL, The Guardian, June 27, 2008

Scotland is planning a renewable energy revolution that would trump the ambitious strategy announced yesterday in London by Gordon Brown – and without building any nuclear power stations.

Brown’s UK-wide strategy sets out how the nation as a whole could reach a target of 30-35% of electricity being generated from renewables by 2020. But ministers in the devolved government in Edinburgh said Scotland will reach this target within three years, and by 2020 would be at 50%.

To help achieve this, more than 40 years since the last big hydroelectric dams flooded glens across the Highlands, Scottish ministers, power companies and land owners plan a new wave of hydro schemes, and claim it will provide a rich source of cheap, green power.

This summer, the government-sponsored Forum for Renewable Energy Development in Scotland is expected to call for scores of hydroelectricity schemes to be built, ranging from dams in northern glens to up to 100 projects harnessing power from rivers.

Next spring, the UK’s main hydroelectricity company, Scottish and Southern Energy, will switch on one of the largest green power plants being built in the UK – a 200MW hydro station buried in mountains at Glendoe near Loch Ness. Serviced by 10 miles of underground tunnels and a large dam, Glendoe will produce enough electricity to supply every house in Glasgow.

Four companies have been surveying the Highlands to find sites for other large hydro schemes, said Tom Douglas, a leading consultant with the engineers Mott MacDonald, and have been advised that up to a dozen hydropower stations could be built.

Separately, Scottish and Southern said it had identified three new sites in the Highlands able to generate up to 200MW in total, and is drafting plans for another new dam after Glendoe.

The hydropower will be sorely needed. Alan Ervine, professor of water engineering at Glasgow University, said rejecting new nuclear stations left ministers with a significant “black hole” to fill. Unlike English ministers, an SNP administration would not replace Hunterston B and Torness power stations once they close.

In 2006, the pair generated 26% of the 54 gigawatts of electricity Scotland produced, but SNP ministers will need to replace that, as well as hitting their 50% “green” power target, by 2020.

At present 12% of Scotland’s electricity is generated by the 70 or so existing hydroelectric dams.

Ervine believes this could nearly double, with dams capable of lasting for 100 years. “Hydro is a well-known technology,” he said. “It’s something we know how to do; we can power it up and do it effectively in Scotland, compared to the risk-taking which is involved with wind, wave and tidal turbines.”

Despite the intention to expand, power from the growing number of large new onshore windfarms will soon outstrip hydro. On Tuesday, ministers authorised two large windfarms able to supply 117,000 homes.

But in many areas of the Highlands, such as Perthshire, hydro is being embraced by anti-windfarm campaigners who are angry at the march of onshore wind turbines across the countryside.

Richard Barclay, a farmer and landowner in Perthshire, is installing a 1.4MW mini-hydro station on his local river. Enough to supply about 1,000 houses in nearby Kinloch Rannoch, it is a “run of river” scheme where the power plant is buried, using river water diverted via a weir and underground pipes, returning it downstream.

“It will fit very well into our local environment,” he said.

“Windfarms are much more controversial. Their visual impact is huge and the run of river scheme has no visual impact essentially because it’s underground. I haven’t met anybody who has a problem with mini-hydro.”

But other tensions are emerging. Strict European Union water quality and environment regulations make it more difficult to build hydroelectric schemes because of the potential damage to fish stocks, river habitats and water sports. But Martin Marsden, head of water policy at the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, which authorises hydro stations, said: “We recognise climate change is the biggest threat to the world, and we’ve no intention of undermining hydro.”

Jason Ormiston, chief executive of the Scottish Renewables Forum, said it was “entirely false” for anti-wind campaigners to believe that hydropower can replace onshore wind. “We have to be able to develop good projects whatever the technology as quickly as possible. We need hydro, we need wind, we need biomass, we will hopefully have wave and tidal,” he said.

Jim Mather, the Scottish energy minister, has described himself as “desperately enthusiastic” about hydro as part of a mix of energy sources. He said: “This is us as systems thinkers: to optimise the entire system called Scotland and not just maximise any one source of supply.

“We’re interested in developing a diverse renewable mix and Scotland has won the lottery of life in terms of on-shore wind, offshore wind, wave, solar, biomass, clean coal technologies, hydro and carbon storage.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, June 13, 2008

Iberdrola Renewables and Gamesa Energia have signed the largest turbine supply contract ever in the wind power industry representing a total capacity of 4,500 megawatts (MW), for delivery between 2010 and 2012. The investment for wind power projects to which the turbines will be assigned is approximately €6.3 billion, a figure that includes the turbines and other costs such as transport, civil works and interconnections, both those at the wind farms themselves and to the grid.

Under the terms of the agreement, Iberdola will assign the turbines to its wind power projects in Spain, the rest of Europe, the United States and Mexico. The contract covers installation and startup of the turbines, as well as operational services and maintenance during the life of the guarantee.

As a result of this important agreement, Iberdola will be able to meet its turbine supply needs during the coming years for its wind power project portfolio, which currently stands at 43,280 MW, not including projects to be incorporated from Gamesa, and thereby avoid one of the major uncertainties in this business by assuring the installation of a significant portion of its projects for the medium term. More than 70% of its requirements will thus be met up to 2012.

The dimensión of this contract, the largest turbine supply agreement ever signed, has enabled the Company to achieve optimum pricing and conditions. It follows another signed with the same company in 2006 for 2,700 MW in capacity, and those signed recently by Iberdrola with General Electric (300 MW), Mitsubishi (300 MW), Suzlon Wind Energy Corporation (700 MW) and Ecotècnia (310 MW).

Strategic Agreement to Develop Wind Farms

Iberdrola Renewables and Gamesa Energía have also signed a strategic agreement to pool their businesses in promotion, development and exploitation of wind farms in Spain and continental Europe, which will increase its potential for future development and growth. For this purpose, they are creating two joint companies, one in Spain and the other abroad, to which they will assign the businesses of promotion, development and exploitation in those territories from the closing of the agreement.

In Spain, Iberdrola will hold 77% of the new company operating there and Gamesa 23%, while in the other international company the shareholdings will be 76% and 24%, respectively.

The strategic agreement, subject to the corresponding approvals from the competition authorities, establishes that Gamesa can increase its shareholding in the Spanish company up to 32% in relation to the number of additional megawatts that correspond to new wind farms adjudicated to it after the agreement takes effect.

Iberdrola and Gamesa have agreed to not sell their stakes before 31 December 2010, and from 1 January 2011, through a mechanism of matching options, Iberdrola will have the option to buy from Gamesa Energía its shareholding in the joint companies envisaged under the agreement and Gamesa Energía can sell its stake in these companies Iberdrola.

In the event that Iberdrola decides to sell its total shareholding in any of the companies from 1 January 2011, the Company has granted Gamesa Energía a joint transmission right to third parties (tag along) and a first option right, subject to certain conditions.

At the same time, the Company will within one month buy Gamesa’s wind power projects in the United Kingdom, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, with a total capacity of 900 MW, for approximately €65 million.

This agreement reflects the two companies’ interest in jointly developing wind power projects, given their experience and know-how in the sector and the advantages of pooling their respective businesses. The complementary nature of their businesses will favour greater creation of value for shareholders of the two companies.

The goal of this agreement is to bring together the two world leaders in wind farm development and consolidate their positioning in existing markets and in those identified in the strategic alliance. Iberdrola will be able to enter new markets where established businesses exist, minimizing the risks relating to geographical diversification, maximizing value creation and achieving economies of scale.

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The Economist, June 5, 2008

You only have to look at waves pounding a beach, inexorably wearing cliffs into rubble and pounding stones into sand, to appreciate the power of the ocean. As soaring oil prices and concern over climate change give added urgency to the search for new, renewable sources of energy, the sea is an obvious place to look. In theory the world’s electricity needs could be met with just a tiny fraction of the energy sloshing around in the oceans.

Alas, harnessing it has proved to be unexpectedly difficult. In recent years wind farms have sprouted on plains and hilltops, and solar panels have been sprinkled across rooftops and deserts. But where the technology of wind and solar power is established and steadily improving, that of wave power is still in its infancy. The world had to wait until October 2007 for the first commercial wave farm, consisting of three snakelike tubes undulating with the Atlantic swell off the coast of Portugal.

In December Pacific Gas & Electric, an American utility, signed an agreement to buy electricity from a wave farm that is to be built off the coast of California and is due to open in 2012. Across the world many other wave-power schemes are on the drawing board. The story of wave power, however, has been one of trials and tests followed by disappointment and delays. Of the many devices developed to capture wave energy, none has ever been deployed on a large scale. Given wave power’s potential, why has it been so hard to get the technology to work—and may things now be about to change?

The first patents for wave-power devices were issued in the 18th century. But nothing much happened until the mid-1970s, when the oil crisis inspired Stephen Salter, an engineer at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, to develop a wave generator known as Salter’s Duck. His design contained curved, floating canisters, each the size of a house, that would be strung together and then tethered to the ocean floor. As the canisters, known as Ducks, were tossed about by the waves, each one would rock back and forth. Hydraulics would convert the rocking motion to rotational motion, which would in turn drive a generator. A single Duck was calculated to be capable of generating 6 megawatts (MW) of electricity—enough to power around 4,000 homes. The plan was to install them in groups of several dozen.

Initial estimates put the cost of generating electricity in this way at nearly $1 per kilowatt hour (kWh), far more than nuclear power, the most expensive electricity at the time. But as Dr Salter and his team improved their design, they managed to bring the cost-per-kWh down to the cost of nuclear power. Even so, the research programme was shut down by the British government in 1982. The reasons for this were not made public, but it is widely believed to have happened after lobbying by the nuclear industry. In testimony to a House of Lords committee in 1988, Dr Salter said that an accurate evaluation of the potential of new energy sources would be possible only when “the control of renewable energy projects is completely removed from nuclear influences.”

Salter’s Duck never took to the seas, but it sparked interest in the idea of wave power and eventually helped to inspire other designs. One example is the Pelamis device, designed by some of Dr Salter’s former students, who now work at Pelamis Wave Power, a firm based in Scotland. Three such devices, each capable of generating up to 750kW, have been deployed off the coast of Portugal, and dozens more are due to be installed by 2009. There are also plans for installations off Orkney in Scotland and Cornwall in England.

As waves travel along the 140-metre length of the snakelike Pelamis, its hinged joints bend both up and down, and from side to side. This causes hydraulic rams at the joints to pump hydraulic fluid through turbines, turning generators to produce electricity. Pelamis generators present only a small cross-section to incoming waves, and absorb less and less energy as the waves get bigger. This might seem odd, but most of the time the devices will not be operating in stormy seas—and when a storm does occur, their survival is more important than their power output.

Oh Buoy

The Aquabuoy, designed by Finavera Renewables of Vancouver, takes a different approach. (This is the device that Pacific Gas & Electric hopes to deploy off the California coast.) Each Aquabuoy is a tube, 25-metres long, that floats vertically in the water and is tethered to the sea floor. Its up-and-down bobbing motion is used to pressurise water stored in the tube below the surface. Once the pressure reaches a certain level, the water is released, spinning a turbine and generating electricity.

The design is deliberately simple, with few moving parts. In theory, at least, there is very little to go wrong. But a prototype device failed last year when it sprang a leak and its bilge-pump malfunctioned, causing it to sink just as it was due to be collected at the end of a trial. Finavera has not released the results of the trial, which was intended to measure the Aquabuoy’s power output, among other things. The company has said, however, that Aquabuoy will be profitable only if each device can generate at least 250kW, and that it has yet to reach this threshold.

Similar bobbing buoys are also being worked on by AWS Ocean Energy, based in Scotland, and Ocean Power Technologies, based in Pennington, New Jersey, among others. The AWS design is unusual because the buoys are entirely submerged; the Ocean Power device, called the PowerBuoy, is being tested off the coast of Spain by Iberdrola, a Spanish utility.

The Oyster, a wave-power device from Aquamarine Power, another Scottish firm, works in an entirely different way. It is an oscillating metal flap, 12 metres tall and 18 metres wide, installed close to shore. As the waves roll over it, the flap flexes backwards and forwards. This motion drives pistons that pump seawater at high pressure through a pipe to a hydroelectric generator. The generator is onshore, and can be connected to lots of Oyster devices, each of which is expected to generate up to 600kW. The idea is to make the parts that go in the sea simple and robust, and to keep the complicated and delicate bits out of the water. Testing of a prototype off the Orkney coast is due to start this summer.

The logical conclusion of this is to put everything onshore—and that is the idea behind the Limpet. It is the work of Wavegen, a Scottish firm which is a subsidiary of Voith Siemens Hydro, a German hydropower firm. A prototype has been in action on the island of Islay, off the Scottish coast, since 2000. The Limpet is a chamber that sits on the shoreline. The bottom of the chamber is open to the sea, and on top is a turbine that always spins in the same direction, regardless of the direction of the airflow through it.

As waves slam into the shore, water is pushed into the chamber and this in turn displaces the air, driving it through the turbine. As the water recedes, air is sucked back into the chamber, driving the same turbine again. The Limpet on Islay has three chambers which generate an average of 100kW between them, but larger devices could potentially generate three times this amount, according to Wavegen. Limpets may be built into harbour breakwaters in Scotland and Spain.

Dozens of wave-energy technologies are being developed around the world: ideas, in other words, are not what has held the field back. So what has? Tom Thorpe of Oxford Oceanics, a consultancy, blames several overlapping causes. For a start, wave energy has lagged behind wind and solar, because the technology is much younger and still faces some big technical obstacles. “This is a completely new energy technology, whereas wind and photovoltaics have been around for a long time—so they have been developed, rather than invented,” says Mr Thorpe.

The British government’s decision to shut its wave-energy research programme, which had been the world’s biggest during the 1970s, set the field back nearly two decades. Since Britain is particularly well placed to exploit wave energy (which is why so many wave-energy companies come from there), its decision not to pursue the technology affected wave-energy research everywhere, says Mr Thorpe. “If we couldn’t do it, who could?” he says.

Once interest in wave power revived earlier this decade, practical problems arose. A recurring problem, ironically enough, is that new devices underestimate the power of the sea, and are unable to withstand its assault. Installing wave-energy devices is also expensive; special vessels are needed to tow equipment out to sea, and it can be difficult to get hold of them. “Vessels that could potentially do the job are all booked up by companies collecting offshore oil,” says Trevor Whittaker, an engineer at Queen’s University in Belfast who has been part of both the Limpet and Oyster projects. “Wave-generator installation is forced to compete with the high prices the oil industry can pay.”

Another practical problem is the lack of infrastructure to connect wave-energy generators to the power grid. The cost of establishing this infrastructure makes small-scale wave-energy generation and testing unfeasible; but large-scale projects are hugely expensive. One way around this is to build a “Wave Hub”, like the one due to be installed off the coast of Cornwall in 2010 that will provide infrastructure to connect up wave-energy arrays for testing.

Expect Flotations

But at last there are signs of change. Big utilities are taking the technology seriously, and are teaming up with wave-energy companies. Venture-capitalists are piling in too, as they look for new opportunities. Several wave-energy companies are thought to be planning stockmarket flotations in the coming months. Indeed, such is investors’ enthusiasm that Mr Thorpe worries that things might have gone too far. A big failure could tarnish the whole field, just as its prospects look more promising than ever.

Whether one wave-energy device will dominate, or different devices will suit different conditions, remains to be seen. But wave energy’s fortunes have changed. “We have to be prepared for some spectacular failures,” says Mr Thorpe, “but equally some spectacular successes.”

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GLOBE-NET NEWS, May 29, 2008

Forever moving – our restless oceans have enough energy to power the world. As long as the Earth turns and the moon keeps its appointed cycle, the oceans will absorb and dissipate vast amounts of kinetic energy – a renewable energy resource of enormous potential. But harnessing this resource has proven more difficult than first thought. In this the latest installment of the GLOBE-Net Series on Renewable Energy – we look at how the power of the oceans might eventually find its place among other forms of renewable energy.

Ocean Energy – What is it?

According to the United Nations, 44% of the world’s population lives within 150 km of an ocean coast. In Canada and Australia the number is much higher at 80%. In the United States 53% of the population lives in close proximity to an ocean.

Thus it is only natural that many countries look to the oceans as a source of energy to be harnessed. How they seek to exploit this resource varies according to factors of geography and available technologies.

The two main forms of energy associated with our oceans are tidal power and wave power – born of the same source, but different in how they turn energy into electricity.

Tidal Power

Tidal power coverts the energy of tides into electricity utilizing the rise and fall of the ocean tides. The stronger the tide, either in water level height or tidal current velocities, the greater the potential for tidal electricity generation.

Tidal generators act in much the same way as do wind turbines, however the higher density of water (832 times that of air) means that a single generator can provide significant power at velocities much lower than those associated`with the wind power generators.

Tidal power can be classified into two main types; Tidal Stream Systems and Barrages.

Barrages are similar to hydro-electric dams but are placed in an estuary bay or river mouth, where they act as barriers that create artificial tidal lagoons. When water levels outside the lagoon changes relative to water levels inside, turbines in the barrages are able to produce electrical power. There are only three such structures in the world: the Rance River in France, Canada’s Bay of Fundy, and Kislaya Guba, Russia.

Tidal stream systems make use of the kinetic energy of moving water to power turbines. This technology simply relies on individual turbines which are placed in the water column; moored to be suspended, floating or anchored to the ocean floor. As the tide flows in or out, electrical energy is produced as water moves through the turbine.

Tidal power boasts several advantages over other types of renewable energy technology, because tides are more predictable and reliable than wind energy or sunny days for solar power. Tidal energy has an efficiency ratio of approximately 80% in terms of converting the potential energy of the water into electricity. Tidal stream system turbines are only a third the diameter of wind rotors of the same power output.

As with wind power, location is important factor in terms of being able to harness the earth’s natural energy. Tidal stream systems must be located in areas with fast currents where natural flows are concentrated between natural obstructions, for example at the entrances to bays and rivers, around rocky points or headlands, or between islands and other land masses.

Wave Power

Ocean surface waves are also a considerable source of energy potential, but energy that is not as restricted in terms of location as tidal energy systems. Typically wave energy is captured using buoys which generate mechanical energy as they oscillate vertically from wave motion.

Terminator devices extend perpendicular to the direction of wave travel and capture or reflect the power of the wave. Water enters through a subsurface opening into a chamber with air trapped above it and wave action causes the captured water column to move up and down like a piston to force the air though an opening connected to a turbine.

A point absorber is a floating structure with components that move relative to each other due to wave action (e.g., a floating buoy inside a fixed cylinder). The relative motion is used to drive electromechanical or hydraulic energy converters.

Attenuators are long multi-segment floating structures oriented parallel to the direction of the waves. The differing heights of waves along the length of the device causes flexing where the segments connect, and this flexing is connected to hydraulic pumps or other converters.

Overtopping devices have reservoirs that are filled by incoming waves to levels above the average surrounding ocean. The water is then released, and gravity causes it to fall back toward the ocean surface. The energy of the falling water is used to turn hydro turbines.

Wave power varies considerably in different parts of the world, and wave energy can’t be harnessed effectively everywhere. According to the Ocean Renewable Energy Group, a Vancouver based organisation that promotes the development of ocean energy in Canada, regions considered to have “good” wave energy resources are generally those found within 40 to 60 degrees of latitude, where the strongest winds are found. Wave-power rich areas of the world include the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa, Australia, and the northwestern coasts of the United States.

Projects Underway

Ocean energy company Clean Current Power Systems estimates a potential global market for 67,000 Megawatts (MW) of tidal and wave action equipment worth $200 billion. At 20 cents/kW hour, the market for tidal electricity could be $27 billion annually. According to Finavera, world-wide wave energy could provide up to 2,000 TWh/year, 10% of world electricity consumption.

It comes as no surprise then, that interest in ocean energy has been building momentum in the past few years as these nations scramble to meet renewable energy targets.

For instance, in November 2007, British company Lunar Energy announced that it would be building the world’s first deep-sea tidal-energy farm off the coast of Pembrokshire in Wales. Eight underwater turbines, each 25 metres long and 15 metres high will provide electricity for 5,000 homes. Construction is due to start in the summer of 2008 and the proposed tidal energy turbines, described as “a wind farm under the sea”, should be operational by 2010.

Plans for a ten-mile barrage across the River Severn, which could generate 5% of the UK’s electricity needs, are currently under development. According to the UK Sustainable Development Commission, a barrage across the Severn would produce clean and sustainable electricity for 120 years. This would have a capacity of 8,640MW and an estimated output of 17 terawatt hours a year.

Scotland boasts roughly 25% of the entire European Union’s tidal power potential and 10% of its wave energy potential and could produce more than 1,300 megawatts by 2020, enough to power a city the size of Seattle. In 2007, Scotland announced $26 million worth of funding packages to develop marine power in the nation. So far $8 million has been procured to develop 3 MW of tidal power.

UK based Marine Current Turbines is developing a tidal stream system off the coast of Ireland. The 1.2-megawatt turbine will be tested for 12 weeks before feeding power into the Northern Ireland grid where it will operate for up to 20 hours per day, producing enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.

Both Scotland and England are planning wave energy projects. Scotland will be developing a 3MW array and England will be developing a 20 MW Wave Hub off the north coast of Cornwall, England. The Cornwall project will power up to 7,500 homes.

Canada has the world’s longest coastline and has always been serious about harnessing ocean energy. In early 2008 the Government of Nova Scotia gave the green light to three tidal energy testing projects in the Bay of Fundy to help establish a permanent tidal energy farm (see GLOBE-Net Article Nova Scotia to fund tidal power research). Irving Oil is also studying 11 potential sites in the Bay of Fundy to develop tidal energy farms.

The Government of British Columbia estimates there are more than 6,000 megawatts of potential wave energy that have been identified so far in the province and projects are already underway to develop wave energy systems. In 2006 Vancouver based Clean Current Power Systems began developing a pilot tidal power project near Victoria to demonstrate the potential for tidal power.

PG&E and Vancouver-based Finavera Renewables is developing America’s first commercial wave power plant off the coast of Northern California. The plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2012, generating a maximum of 2 megawatts of electricity.

In March, 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy announced would be offering up to $7.5 million in grants for hydro-kinetic energy such as wave and tidal power. The department is seeking partnerships with companies and universities to develop the technologies and plans to award up to 17 grants.

Portugal is planning the world’s first commercial wave farm, the Aguçadora Wave Park near Póvoa de Varzim. If successful, a further 70 million euro is likely to be invested before 2009 on a further 28 machines to generate 72.5 MW.

The Challenges

Despite the enormous potential of ocean energy, there remain many pitfalls (if such a word can be used in a watery context) that have proven difficult to overcome, and which explains why ocean energy remains the least developed of all forms renewable energy. Problems still exist regarding cost, maintenance, environmental concerns and our still imperfect understanding of how power from the oceans will impact on the world’s energy infrastructure.

For example, turbines are susceptible to bio-fouling; the growth of aquatic life on or in the turbine. This can severely inhibit the efficiency of energy production and is both costly and difficult to remove. Turbines are also prone to damage from ocean debris.

In the Bay of Fundy, project developers are particularly concerned with ice floes the size of small apartments, and cobblestones the size of watermelons constantly being tossed across the Bay’s terrain by the power of the Bay’s water flows.

Turbines may also be hazardous to marine life and the impacts on marine life are still largely unknown, but concern is warranted.

Barrage systems are affected by problems of high initial infrastructure costs associated with construction and the resulting environmental problems. For example, independent research on the economics of building the proposed Severn Barrage in the UK revealed that, taking environmental costs into account, the structure could cost as much as $12 billion to create – $4 billion more than previously estimated.

Barrage impacts include a decrease in the average salinity and turbidity within a barrage, significantly altering associated ecosystems.

Wave power systems present their own set of challenges. Most electric generators operate at higher speeds, and most turbines require a constant, steady flow. Unfortunately wave energy is slow and ocean waves oscillate at varying frequencies.

The rough realities of the marine environment have also proven difficult to deal with, especially for companies seeking to remain cost-effective. Constructing wave devices that can survive storm damage and saltwater corrosion add to development costs.

The Future

Modern advances in ocean energy technology may eventually see large amounts of power generated from the ocean, especially tidal currents using the tidal stream designs. The technology is still in its infant stage and most projects that exist or are that are in project development stages are mainly pilot projects. But the promise remains.

“It’s not as well-established as solar, thermal, wind and biomass, but it [ocean power] shows a lot of promise,” said Philip Jennings, professor of energy studies at Western Australia’s Murdoch University.

“As the technology develops and becomes more affordable, which it will over time, we can continue to expand pretty much anywhere where there is an ocean,” said Chief Executive Officer Phil Metcalf of Pelamis Wave Power.

The market potential for tidal power still remains unclear [says who?]. Sector analysts believe Initial Public Offerings (IPO) for wave and tidal power projects will be much harder to price than for comparable wind power projects, because wave firms cannot give exact estimates on the scale of benefits and few have technologies that are up and running.

Regardless, both ocean wave and tidal power have attracted growing interest from investors and power utilities looking for the next long-term play in renewable energy.

“Water covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface,” said Andy Karsner, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the DOE. “Using environmentally responsible technologies, we have a tremendous opportunity to harness energy produced from ocean waves, tides or ocean currents, free-flowing water in rivers and other water resources to…provide clean and reliable power.”

According to Jennings ocean power could not match fossil fuels for electricity production but could be competitive with other forms of renewable energy.

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Net News Publishers, May 6, 2008

Work to determine the potential of a tidal energy generator in the Severn Estuary is continuing with the appointment of a consortium led by consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff who will manage the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

The SEA is a major part of the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study. It will provide analysis of how the environment around the estuary will be affected if a tidal range power project goes ahead.

The Secretary of State for Energy, John Hutton, announced the start of the two year long feasibility study in January. The tidal energy resource in the Severn Estuary provides the largest potential of all the UK’s estuaries for renewable electricity generation. John Hutton said: “A Severn tidal power project could be larger in size, output and cost than any other energy project in this country. It has the potential to generate up to 5% of the UK’s electricity demand and contribute significantly to the proposed EU renewable energy targets. It’s therefore vitally important we undertake the most thorough and exhaustive study and contract the right companies to take this work forward”.

Minister for the Environment at the Welsh Assembly Government, Jane Davidson said: “The Welsh Assembly Government is committed to increasing the amount of energy generated from renewable sources so as to help address the serious issue of climate change. We must, therefore, consider carefully the opportunity to harness tidal power in the Severn Estuary. I am very much aware of the estuary’s environmental importance and the environmental protection legislation that, quite rightly, will need to be taken fully into account. There is a great deal at stake and our assessments during the feasibility study must be rigorous and based on sound science.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers has been appointed to advise the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) on how such a project could be financed and ownership options. Consideration will be given to the full range of possibilities, including the need for any government support

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WILLIAM PENTLAND, Forbes.com, April 30, 2008

The Middle East is hardly known as the capital of clean energy, but Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are trying to change that.

A few weeks ago, 100-foot-wide propellers began turning on the recently completed World Trade Center building, making Bahrain home to the world’s first building-integrated wind turbine skyscraper. The building includes two sail-shaped towers that climb 54 floors above the beachfront site. Three small bridges link the towers, with a massive wind turbine hanging from each. The towers funnel the ocean winds into the turbines, which generate more than 10% of the energy used by the building.

As climate change and renewable-energy policies level the playing field in the energy industry, alternative-energy companies are racing to assure investors, policymakers and the public that they can scale to meet the needs of energy-starved consumers. During the last few years, a clutch of clean energy projects have emerged on a scale never seen before. Forbes.com has identified the biggest and boldest projects among them.

We surveyed the clean energy landscape for new and recently completed projects in solar, wind, geothermal and wave energy that produced the most grid-connected electricity. Forbes.com also identified the green government initiative and green building project with the highest estimated dollar value. The results are different from what most people would expect.

Bahrain isn’t the only desert blooming green this year. California’s Mojave Desert is rapidly filling up with solar-thermal power plants, courtesy of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Solel Solar Systems, an Israeli solar-thermal company, recently agreed to supply Pacific Gas & Electric with 553 megawatts of solar thermal energy for 25 years, starting in 2009.

Like other companies, PG&E is racing to meet California’s 20% renewable energy requirement by 2010. As a result, Solel plans to string 1.2 million mirrors in large arrays over nine square miles of California’s southeastern desert. The plant will use parabolic 3- by 4-foot mirrors developed by Solel to convert the sun’s heat into steam that powers turbines.

Deserts aren’t the only place being developed–quite a few projects are taking place in the ocean.

Scotland boasts roughly 25% of the entire European Union’s tidal power potential and 10% of its wave energy potential. In an effort to tap those resources, Scottish Power, a wave-energy company based in Scotland, plans to build the world’s largest wave-energy farm off the coast of Orkney Island. If wave energy proves as profitable as many say, Scotland could produce more than 1,300 megawatts by 2020, enough to power a city the size of Seattle, according to some estimates.

Despite Scotland’s ambitious foray into wave energy, the Orkney project is small change compared with what’s happening off the coast on the opposite end of the island.

England is the windiest country in the European Union. Slightly smaller than Louisiana, the island nation is already hard-pressed for space, which wind farms need a whole heap of to make a difference. As a result, England has done what England has always done–head to sea.

The London Array project plans to erect a constellation of more than 340 wind turbines in the outer Thames Estuary, roughly seven miles off the Kent Coast. When construction ends, London Array will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, generating more electricity than Denmark’s Middelgrunden offshore wind farm, which is the largest offshore farm operational today.

Although London Array is hard to beat on the big scale, that’s hardly enough to stop a Texas oil tycoon like T. Boone Pickens from trying. Nothing shows the continuity between Big Oil and Big Green quite like Pickens, the oilfield roughneck turned Texas oil tycoon who plans to build the world’s largest wind power farm.

Pickens has invested heavily in a planned wind power farm that will stretch across four counties in the Texas panhandle near Amarillo. The farm’s 2,700 wind turbines will be able to power 1 million homes when construction ends.

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TOM BERGIN, Reuters UK, May 14, 2008

London – Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) will build the world’s largest offshore wind farm and has awarded $3 billion (1.5 billion pounds) in contracts to U.S. engineer Fluor and Germany’s Siemens.

Despite industry doubts about the viability of offshore wind SSE said on Wednesday it would build the farm off the east coast. Work would begin on the 504 megawatt Greater Gabbard project shortly and power generation would start in 2011.

The utility added it had bought Texas-based Fluor’s 50% stake in the project for 40 million pounds.

Earlier this month Royal Dutch Shell said it wanted to sell its stake in a planned 1,000 MW British offshore wind farm project called London Array, raising doubts as to whether that project would be built.

London Array partner E.ON, the German utility, acknowledged that rising steel costs and a tight market for turbines had made the economics of the project challenging, despite government incentives for CO2-free generation.

Falling turbine sales in the first quarter at the world’s biggest turbine maker, Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S, added to fears that a boom in wind energy in recent years — driven by fears of climate change — may be cooling.

However, SSE spokesman Justyn Smith said that while rising costs were a feature of the wind industry the utility was confident Great Gabbard would “meet our rigorous investment criteria”.

Fluor will build the wind farm and the company said in a statement the contract was worth $1.8 billion.

Europe’s biggest engineering company Siemens will provide and service the 140 turbines to be installed. The Munich-based company said it would be paid 800 million euros (636 million pounds).

The British government, which criticised Shell’s decision to exit London Array, welcomed SSE’s announcement.

“The massive potential of the UK shoreline coupled with the right market conditions mean the UK is one of the most attractive places in the world to invest in offshore technology,” Business Minister John Hutton said.

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LESTER HAINES, The Register, April 21, 2008

The Scottish Government has turned down an application to build a 181-turbine wind farm on the Isle of Lewis, the BBC reports.

The decision confirms a report by the BBC’s Gaelic news service Radio nan Gaidheal back in January, which predicted a red light for the £500m project, proposed by Lewis Wind Power (LWP).

Although the plan was approved in February 2007 by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) members, who voted 18 to eight in favour, and attracted local business support, 11,000 objections nudged the Scottish Government to decide the scheme “did not comply with European law protecting sensitive environments”.

Campaigners had warned of “irreversible damage” to one of the country’s “most important wetland sites”. Scottish ministers agreed, and declared the farm “would have a serious impact on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated under the European Commission (EC) Birds Directive and protected under the EC Habitats Directive”.

Energy Minister Jim Mather confirmed: “The Lewis Wind Farm would have significant adverse impacts on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated due to its high value for rare and endangered birds. This decision does not mean that there cannot be onshore wind farms in the Western Isles.

“I strongly believe the vast renewables potential needs to be exploited to ensure that the opportunities and benefits of new development can be shared across the country in an equitable fashion.”

LWP, which insisted the development would create more than 400 jobs, described itself as “bitterly disappointed” with the knock-back. It said in a statement: “The local authority and all of Scotland’s major business organisations fully recognised the huge benefits that this proposal would have delivered.

“The economic benefits included the creation of around 400 local jobs, 680 jobs across Scotland, during the construction process, as well as providing much needed investment to the Arnish Yard* to make it a global competitor for other projects.”

It added: “The wind farm would have contributed 650MW of renewable energy to help the fight against climate change and paved the way for an interconnector to the mainland to encourage more investment in other renewable technologies. “Sadly all of this has been lost because of the government decision which, we believe, represents a huge missed opportunity.”

LWP concluded it would be “considering the Government’s response in detail before deciding on our next move”.

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LEWIS PAGE, The Register, May 1, 2008

Oil giant Shell has pulled out of the world’s biggest wind farm project, in a move which has cast doubt over the scheme’s future. The £2bn London Array, intended to be built in the Thames Estuary, will need to find a new backer in order to proceed.

For the London Array Project, Shell was partnered with UK power operator E.ON and Dong Energy, the firm behind much of the substantial Danish wind power base. E.ON chief Paul Golby has suggested that Shell’s pullout could torpedo the scheme. “Shell has introduced a new element of risk into the project which will need to be assessed,” said Golby. “The current economics of the project are marginal at best,” he added, citing steel costs and supply bottlenecks – and this despite the fact the UK government renewable energy quota system is currently said to be offering a bonanza for wind power operators.

Offshore wind farm projects like the London Array are thought by renewables advocates to be the main answer to the UK’s energy needs. They could allow the construction of taller windmills than would be practical ashore; and would potentially be able to reap the benefit of more predictable winds, less affected by terrain and surface phenomena.

The London Array would be the biggest ever, filling the channel in the outer Thames Estuary between the Kentish Knock and Long Sands banks with up to 341 turbines. This is one of the few areas of the estuary where it wouldn’t be in the middle of a heavily used shipping lane, though looking at typical vessel movement in the immediate area you’d have to say there’s still some risk of collisions.

When fully operational, it would make a substantial contribution to the UK Government’s renewable energy target of providing 10 per cent of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources by 2010… it is expected that the project would represent nearly 10 per cent of this target. The entire Array would generate one per cent of the UK’s electricity. Wind farm planners like to describe their capacity in terms of maximum possible output, assuming all turbines spinning at best speed – this is the 1,000 megawatts referred to above.

In reality, the wind is seldom blowing at just the right speed. Sometimes the turbines stop altogether, due to flat calms or strong gales; mostly they run at much less than max output. The Array, on average the project would put out 3,100 gigawatt-hours per annum, equating to average output of 354 megawatts rather than 1,000. The London Array at full power could have delivered 0.88 per cent of that; on current trends, by the time it’s built you’d be looking at 0.77 or so.

Still, it sounds better to say “we will deliver nearly 10 per cent of the government’s target” than “we will deliver a fraction of a percentage point of the UK’s electricity”.

And electricity is just one of the ways we use energy. There’s also transport fuel, gas, heating oil, etc. The UK actually used a total of 2,700 terawatt hours of energy in 2006. The conversions between tons of oil and gigawatt-hours are at the back.) That’s a ballpark figure for how much we’d need in order to switch to electric or hydrogen transport, stop using gas heating, to generally stop emitting carbon and be ready for the inevitable post-fossil-energy future.

In other words, the mighty London Array, fully operational, would deliver roughly a thousandth of Blighty’s energy needs. You can see why Shell doesn’t view it as a critical part of its future business.

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BBC, May 8, 2008

Centrica, one of the UK’s biggest energy generators, has warned that the prospect of making money from wind farms is looking “marginal”.

The company says that the rising cost of off-shore wind farms could end up ruining the government’s renewable energy targets. The comments come a week after Shell withdrew from a project that was set to become the world’s largest wind farm. The government wants 33 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity built by 2020.

Mr Sambhi, Centrica’s director of power business unit, says the firm is still planning to build three new wind farms in the UK, but believes that current conditions are making the government’s renewable plans look very ambitious. “The economics at the moment make the returns marginal.” “The worrying trend is that if the manufacturing costs continue to increase, then I think that the wind target is under threat,” said Mr Sambhi.

Wind Farm Expansion

This week Centrica’s Lynn and Inner Dowsing project will deliver power to the National Grid.

The opening of the wind farm comes at a time when the economics of off-shore wind generation are coming into question. But the wind farm off the coast of Skegness has doubled in price in the last three years because of the rising cost of steel and copper. There are effectively only two companies that produce wind farms for the UK market – Vestas of Denmark and the German company Siemens. Both have a huge order book, with Vestas alone having nearly £4bn worth of orders yet to be delivered. The turbine manufacturers point to the rising cost of raw materials and the difficulty they have in securing the parts they need.

Big Projects

Uncertainty over the future of the 1,000 megawatt London Array wind farm off the coast of Kent has increased tension in the industry.

Shell, one of the three major partners in the London Array – meant to be the world’s largest wind farm, last week pulled out of the project.

Lynn & Inner Dowsing Facts:

  • Each turbine can power 2,500 homes
  • Turbines are 100m high and nearly 100m in diameter
  • Each turbine weighs approximately 260 tonnes
  • The 54 turbines have a combined generating capacity of 180 MW

After Shell’s decision, one of the other partners – E.ON – said that the economics of the project were “marginal at best”. The cost of the project is thought to have doubled since 2003, when it was estimated at £1bn.

The BBC has learnt that just one turbine manufacturer made a tender for the project, increasing the impression amongst some in the industry that manufacturers are able to choose their price for the projects they take on. High costs have forced the energy companies to look elsewhere for funding.

Centrica is aiming to build another three wind farms with a total capacity of around 1250 megawatts but does not want to fund the projects alone. In a bid to keep the projects on track the company is looking for investment from City institutions, including from private equity firms.

Government Policy

But this innovative tactic might not have the desired results according to Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy Policy at Oxford University. “Investors are saying that the current policy for wind energy in the UK is not fit for purpose.” “Unless the government wants to revamp and rebase its wind structure, it isn’t going to get what it wants from wind,” said Mr Helm.

This view is echoed by Charles Anglin from the British Wind Energy Association, who says that a lack of clarity has affected investment. “The fact that the government was slow to wake up to the opportunity of wind did push up uncertainty, and that has affected prices and meant that manufacturers have delayed investment,” he said.

But the government believes that the future for wind power in the UK is secure. It says that there are financial incentives in place to encourage energy companies to invest in wind farms. It also points to the fact that Britain is due to over take Denmark as the largest wind energy generator by the end of the year.

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Renewable Energy Development Blog, April 23, 2008

DeltaStream by Eco2The latest Tidal Energy venture is a demonstration project in Welsh waters backed by renewable energy developer Eco2, investing £150,000 into Tidal Energy Limited as the company installs DeltaStream. The finance needed by Tidal Energy Limited, which was formerly known as Tidal Hydraulic Generators, will fund the prototype phase of this 12 month operation, reaching £6 million. Eco2 will fund £1 million which has been matched by the Carbon Connections Development Fund.

DeltaStream is tidal stream technology, distinct from other devices as it does not require fixing to the sea bed. Each DeltaStream energy device is a 1.2MW capacity generator made up of three turbines in a triangular frame. The frame itself is comparatvely light which will positioning with a minimum of effort. To prevent the DeltaStream from being shifted by the currents it will require some form of ballasting.

The DeltaStream is modular as the components can be exchanged for maintenance or repair. This makes the DeltaStream energy device considerably cheaper to maintain than comparable tidal systems.

Tidal Energy Limited plans to begin manufacturing the device later in 2008 with a view to beginning full-scale installation in 2009.

David Williams, Chief Executive of Eco2, said: “This is an important development as it literally takes renewable power generation out of sight, minimising environmental impact, yet harnessing the largely untapped energy resources of the oceans, far more cost effectively than before. We believe this is the most aesthetic and energy efficient solution yet to meeting EU renewable energy targets.”

More information can be found by reading the Carbon Connection DeltaStream Case Study.

Some more Tidal Energy turbines in development around the world

SeaGen at Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland
Tocardo Turbines at Pentland Firth, Scotland
Rotech Tidal Turbines at Wando Hoenggan Waterway, South Korea
Free Flow Turbines at St Lawrence River, Canada

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http://www.inthenews.uk.co, April 7, 2008

Planning permission has been granted by the Energy Secretary for a tidal stream generator to be tested in the Humber estuary, Stallingborough, United Kingdom.

When in the water the prototype model is estimated to generate up to 0.15MW and it will be one of the first tidal power machines to supply Great Britain’s national grid.

The generator will be positioned off the south bank of the Humber at Upper Burcom near Stallingborough.

It will work by extracting energy from underwater currents in a similar way to wind turbines.

Energy from tidal flows will power a pair of straight horizontal hydrofoils, 11m in length, which will move up and down like a dolphin’s tail.

If it is successful then it will be used to develop larger 1MW units which could be used in arrays generating up to 100MW each. This is enough to power the equivalent of 70,000 homes.

The project, developed by Pulse Tidal Ltd., has been given backing of £878,000 from the government.

“Our continued support for these emerging technologies is essential if the UK is to cement its position as a world leader in marine technologies,” said Energy Secretary John Hutton.
“I have made clear our commitments to renewable energy and to marine technologies. We will be doubling the support available for those technologies under the Renewables Obligation.

“This kind of tidal project, if proven, will go some way to helping the UK meet its ambitious targets for clean, green energy.”

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RenewableEnergyDev.com, April 8, 2008

A Dutch tidal device developer has recognised the potential in the Scottish waters and is planning a new tidal energy power plant in the Pentland Firth, hoping to begin development as early as the end of 2008.

Tocardo has established a subsidiary company called Tocardo Tidal Energy with the plan to set up production, assembly and office facilities in Wick Harbour. The major goal is to construct a 10MW offshore tidal energy plant which has tentatively been christened the Pentland Firth Tidal Energy Park. This first foray harnessing tidal energy in the Pentland Firth is expected to be a mere drop in the ocean, as it were, for future tidal power projects in the region.

The project plans to use the Tocardo technology which is a twin-bladed horizontal axis turbine with direct drive generator and fixed pitch blades. The rotor blades on the turbines will be 10m in diameter and will be capable of generating 650kW each.

A pre-feasibility study has been prepared by Tocardo BV Tidal Energy to identify the tasks required for a Tidal Master Plan Study. The Tidal Master Plan Study will be the feasibility study to determine the best way forward towards accelerated development of the tidal energy potential of the Pentland Firth.

An objective has been set in place by the Scottish Government to harness 1300MW of tidal energy in the Pentland Firth by 2020.

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