Friday, 20 March 2015

The future of tidal power

In this week's budget, the government announced its support for tidal energy:

Budget 2015: Swansea tidal lagoon negotiations 'opening'

18 March 2015 Last updated at 19:11

Chancellor George Osborne has said negotiations are opening on a£1bn tidal lagoon scheme in Swansea, in his Budget speech in the House of Commons.
The plan would see a giant man-made lagoon generating power to run 120,000 homes for 120 years.
Talks will focus on the amount of subsidy the scheme will get from a guaranteed price for its power.
In December, Energy Secretary Ed Davey announced "in-depth discussions" on the project had started.
Following confirmation on Wednesday that commercial negotiations had begun, Mr Davey said: "Tidal lagoons could provide 8% of our electricity needs, replacing foreign fossil fuels with clean, reliable home-grown electricity and creating fantastic economic opportunities."
His department said the negotiations would establish whether a guaranteed price for power generated by the lagoon would be "affordable and value for money", adding that the project was still subject to a planning decision.

BBC News - Budget 2015: Swansea tidal lagoon negotiations 'opening'
Tidal Lagoon Plants Could Power 8% Of UK
Britain in tidal lagoon project | Western Daily Press

A BBC video explains:


Published on Mar 2, 2015
Plans to generate electricity from the world's first series of tidal lagoons have been unveiled in the UK.
The six lagoons - four in Wales and one each in Somerset and Cumbria - will capture incoming and outgoing tides behind giant sea walls, and use the weight of the water to power turbines.
A £1bn Swansea scheme, said to be able to produce energy for 155,000 homes, is already in the planning system.
Roger Harrabin has been to Swansea Bay to see how it would work.

How does a tidal lagoon power plant work? - YouTube
Tidal power - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The company is pushing the 'made-in-Britain' input:
Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay
Tidal power scheme backs UK engineering with turbine work coming to UK - Telegraph

And yet there have been questions around the return on investment:
Swansea Bay tidal lagoon 'appalling value for money', says Citizens Advice - Telegraph
Tidal lagoons: another green rip-off? | Energy | Environment | spiked

There are other projects at various stages elsewhere in the UK:

One such project was the Severn estuary tidal power project - not a million miles from Swansea:

Severn Tidal Reef design by Evans Engineering

Severn Tidal Reef Project, Minehead to Aberthaw power generation barrage, Evans Engineering
Severn Barrage Tidal Power - Tidal

... which was rejected in 2013:
tidal energy news - Government rejects £25bn Severn tidal barrage proposal

Meanwhile, also on the Severn in Bristol, another project seemed promising:
DECC's Greg Barker Backs Marine Current Turbines' Plans for its First Tidal Farms | Marine Current Turbines
Siemens buys majority stake in British tidal power developer MCT - Gas to Power Journal - Gas to Power Journal UK
Welcome to MCT | Marine Current Turbines
Marine Current Turbines - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

However, late last year, things went pear-shaped:

Siemens Exits Tidal Power Industry Blaming Slow Development
Nov. 25 2014 (Bloomberg) 

Siemens AG has decided to sell its tidal power business, Marine Current Turbines Ltd., marking another blow for the struggling ocean-energy industry.
Siemens is looking to exit marine energy, saying the development of the market and the supply chain has taken longer to grow than it expected. The divestment will likely take “several months” to complete and affect 45 employees, it said in an e-mailed statement today.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the London-based researcher, in August revised down its 2020 capacity forecast for tidal power to 148 megawatts, about 11 percent less than previously estimated. It said technologies are taking longer to develop and costing more than expected.
While a tidal power industry of “critical size” will develop in the future, due to the “limited resources” it would be too much of a niche market for Siemens, it said in the statement. If buyers aren’t found it will consult with the affected employees, and if restructuring occurs then redeployment within the company will be prioritized, according to the statement.
Siemens in August halted work on a tidal-power project with MCT in Wales. At the time it said it was continuing to review its strategy for deployment and that it was in talks with suppliers and other “key stakeholders” on different opportunities.

Siemens Exits Tidal Power Industry Blaming Slow Development - Bloomberg Business
Siemens abandons tidal energy - Wave and Tidal | reNEWS - Renewable Energy News
Siemens hunts for buyer to take on Marine Current Turbines | News | The Engineer

Don’t let North Devon wave energy plans sink without trace
18 December 2014 Tony Gussin

The Seaflow turbine when it was in place at Lynmouth.

MP calls on Government to promote the region in the face of stiff European competition.
Opportunities for wave energy at sites such as Lynmouth should not be lost, North Devon MP Nick Harvey has told the Government.
He urged energy secretary Ed Davey to make the most of the region’s marine energy opportunities and ensure its future or face losing the business to the continent.
During Parliamentary questions today (Thursday) he highlighted news that Siemens had proposed the sale of Bristol-based marine energy company Marine Current Technology (MCT), which – who oversaw trials of a marine turbine off Lynmouth in 2003.
Pelamis, a wave energy developer, has also gone into administration.
The Secretary of State said he hoped the demonstration zone at Lynmouth would be able to take further tidal arrays, and that the recent developments around a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay were a boost for the tidal industry.
“In contrast with the disappointing news from the UK’s marine industry, the French have just given the go-ahead to two major projects off the coast of Brittany, bringing in big developers EDF, Alstrom and GDF Suez,” said Mr Harvey.
“There is a chronic lack of finance coming forward in this country for marine projects and the technology is stuck in a difficult period of commercialisation.
“I fear there is a real risk industry will move to the continent unless the Government gives its full support to the marine sector at this delicate stage.
“We already have successful resources - trials of the Seaflow turbine off Lynmouth wholly exceeded expectations.”

Don’t let North Devon wave energy plans sink without trace - News - North Devon Gazette

In fact, the situation in the UK at the beginning of the year didn't look too good:
Wave and tidal energy sector at critical point - The Journal

Meanwhile, in Sweden, an industry spin-out from Saab, has come up with some clever technology:

Published on 16 May 2012

Minesto develops a new concept for tidal and ocean current power plants called Deep Green. Deep Green is based on a fundamentally new principle for electricity generation from ocean currents. The power plant is applicable in areas where no other known technology can operate cost effectively due to its unique ability to operate in low velocities. Minesto expands the total marine energy potential and offers a step change in cost for tidal energy.
This film is produced by Minesto in cooperation with Saab for the World Expo 2012 in Republic of Korea where Minesto participates. Find out more on www.minesto.com

Minesto - Power from Tidal and Ocean Currents

In other words, is the future really in mega-energy projects?
Are small-scale renewable energy grids already starting to replace mega-utility corporations?
Top 10 small-scale renewable energy innovators | John Vidal | Environment | The Guardian
Microgeneration - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
RenewableUK | Small & Medium Scale Wind
Renewable Energy & Efficiency Technologies | Home Power Magazine
Overview of Small Scale Renewable Energy
What is the Small scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES)?

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