By Fran Willby
According to the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) there will be up to 180MW of global wave and tidal energy projects available by late 2016, with the UK potentially hosting between 70-80 per cent of installations.

Scotland is leading the marine energy sector with seven of the world’s eight tidal demonstrations based in its waters. Many of these technologies were on display last month at Scotland’s premier renewables show, All-Energy 2012.

Some of the technologies exhibited were already deployed as test devices in various marine energy parks across the globe, whilst others had only recently been brought to the industry’s attention.

Technology providers ranged from those using a more ‘traditional’ turbine developed from the wind industry (Andritz Hydro, Nautricity, Marine Current Turbines, TidalStream and Tocardo BV) through to OpenHydro’s seabed mounted turbine device, which is reminiscent of an aeroplane propeller.

For marine energy to really achieve its potential it must prove it is commercially viable; the world’s available ‘water-to-wire’ resource cannot simply be harnessed but must become a competitive industrial player. 

Which is exactly what the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), based in Scotland, aims to do; test marine technologies to determine those that can be connected to our electricity grids and those that are simply a great technological development, but idealistic in regards to cost-competitiveness.

Tidal energy, unlike its close relative wave, has the potential to be a major contributor to our global energy mix. Scottish tidal power is estimated at up to 7.5GW (25% of the EU’s total capacity).  The commercial advantage of tidal technology is that it provides a predictable source of energy that can contribute to the overall energy mix to secure a constant source of power generation.

In addition, unlike most renewable technologies that frequently face resistance due to their visibility, tidal devices are submerged at subsea level so there is no visual or audible pollution.

Although less predictable than tidal power, to put the power of wave energy into perspective, Scotland has an estimated potential of up to 14GW (10% of the EU’s capacity) making it an important part of the energy mix. Many wave energy converters were displayed at All-Energy including Pelamis Wave Power, Wello and Langlee Wave Power.

The range of technologies on display at All-Energy demonstrated the marine energy sector’s future role in supporting low-carbon energy roadmaps and targets with Scotland, the UK and Europe. 

With such excitement, possibility and potential commercial viability, the answers to many of the difficult questions facing populations and politicians about future energy security could all be answered by simply looking to the waters that surround us.

Courtesy of Fran Willby, Life Size Media

Life Size Media is a creative communications agency specialising in emerging low-carbon technologies.

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