Article - Tidal energy in Scotland


An update from the 2018 All Energy conference in Glasgow

For an Australian visiting Scotland, the All Energy conference held in Glasgow on 2-3 May 2018 had an interesting array of new renewable energy technologies to explore. In particular, Scotland is pushing the boundaries of tidal energy and is poised to become a world leader in this technology.

Marine energy and the potential for significant economic benefits

The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) was established in 2003 as the world’s leading facility for testing wave and tidal energy converters in real sea conditions off the Scottish coast. EMEC also supports innovative projects such as the production of hydrogen gas using electricity generated from tidal energy.

At the All Energy conference in Glasgow, EMEC and ORE Catapult released a new report Tidal Stream and Wave Energy Cost Reduction and Industrial Benefit that shows the potential for significant economic benefits to be realised from the UK's marine energy resources.

The report highlighted how the marine energy industry:

  • can achieve material carbon reductions: marine energy technologies have the potential to displace natural gas generation on the grid and to reduce CO2 emissions.

  • has a clear cost reduction pathway: tidal energy has the potential to significantly reduce costs from approximately £300 per MWh in 2018 to below £90 per MWh within 1GW deployment.

  • can make the UK a world-leader in the market. The tidal and wave industries could respectively generate a net cumulative benefit to the UK of £1.4B and £4B, while supporting respectively 4,000 jobs by 2030 and 8,100 jobs by 2040. In addition, 50-60% of the economic benefit is expected to be created in coastal areas with greater need for economic regeneration.

The benefits of tidal energy

Tidal energy brings a different power profile to other renewable energy sources:

  • It is predictable years in advance as it is coupled to the relative movement of the earth, moon and sun rather than seasonal and short-term weather conditions. This can be extremely valuable in a system that contains intermittent sources of generation

  • It could make a significant contribution towards long term climate change objectives.

  • It is modular and scalable, allowing a flexible approach to project sizing for specific resources.

  • Its energy density is far greater than that of other forms of renewable energy such as wind and solar.

  • It has the potential to bring sizeable material economic benefits with the development of new industries and the associated job creations. A country developing this industry would have a first mover advantage in building skills and knowledge, similar to how Denmark benefited from the development of its wind industry.

Project update - Meygen Phase 1A

The Meygen Phase 1A project was developed by Atlantis Group, just 2km from Scotland’s north-east tip. It is the world’s first utility-scale grid-connected tidal array energy farm. The farm is made up of 4 turbines (6MW in total) and has started generating.

The goal of the project is to demonstrate that the development of tidal array projects is both commercially viable and technically feasible. The project will also yield important learnings from construction, installation, operation etc. that can be used in its next phases, with another 80MW in the pipeline. The lease for the project is for up to 398MW in total.

Project update - Scotrenewables SR2000

In 2016, Scotrenewables launched its SR2000 2MW turbine - the largest operating, full commercial scale, turbine. It operates near the sea surface where the greatest tidal flows can be found.

The technology draws on Scotland’s expertise in the shipping industry: the turbine is towed onsite and doesn’t rely on expensive specialised vessels (a useful trait during poor weather). It also draws on offshore wind technology which helps to lower costs and downtime allocated to maintenance .

Quickly, the turbine has provided impressive results. Over a seven day period, the turbine met the electricity demand of nearly 7% of the entire Orkney Islands, with shorter periods where that contribution exceeded 25% of demand. By November 2017, the turbine had set a world record by generating 1GWh of tidal energy in record time in Orkney. At times, it reached 45% capacity factors!

Overall, the key take-away messages were that the technologies look promising and the next step for the industry is to scale up to demonstrate cost reductions and build a supply chain. It looks set for a bright future.

This article was first published on LinkedIn.


Marilyne Crestias