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Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

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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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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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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