Can €20m European project prove tidal energy reliability?

A new Scottish tidal energy project aims to demonstrate high array reliability and availability are possible.

The project, ‘Enabling Future Arrays in Tidal’ (EnFAIT) is being led by Scottish tidal energy company Nova Innovation. It will build on Nova’s existing operational tidal power station in Bluemull Sound off the Shetland Islands in Scotland, which was one of the world’s first grid-connected offshore array of tidal energy turbines.

The project will be extended by increasing the array to six turbines and aims to demonstrate that high array reliability and availability can be achieved using best practice maintenance regimes. Also, the layout of the turbines will be adjusted to enable array interactions and optimisation to be studied for the very first time at an operational tidal energy site.

Nova’s consortium partner companies are Belgian renewable energy project developer ELSA; UK research center Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult; integrated drive systems provider HMK Technical Services; German bearing and sealing firm SKF GmbH; The University of Edinburgh; Wood Group (France); Mojo Maritime, a UK project management, engineering and consultancy company; and French environmental consultancy RSK Environment.

The project, running now until June 2022, was won as a competitive contract awarded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to develop marine energy sources and demonstrate technologies in European waters. The programme is in place to ensure that Europe produces world-class science and removes barriers to innovation.

The project is a flagship initiative for the EU and marine energy and its aim is to increase the commercial viability of tidal power.

The project costs are expected to reach €20.2m, of which the EU Horizon 2020 Programme will contribute €14.9m. Horizon 2020 is the largest EU Research and Innovation programme with nearly €80bn of funding available over seven years.

Tidal energy - investor confidence

Simon Forrest, chief executive of Nova Innovation, said the project will make ‘a major contribution to reducing the lifetime costs of tidal energy, and will boost investor confidence by providing hard-edged analytics of commercial and operational performance to inform investment decisions.”

Rémi Gruet, chief executive of industry network Ocean Energy Europe, said: “This announcement is a significant development, and further proof that the tidal energy industry is now in take-off mode.

"The EnFAIT project is an important pathfinder project and will help strengthen Europe’s global technology leadership in tidal energy. The knowledge, experience and expertise gained from projects like this will pave the way for a new industrial manufacturing sector with a supply chain based firmly in Europe”.

Europe’s tidal energy development

Tidal stream and wave energy technologies showed significant technological progress in 2016, according to a JRC Ocean Energy Status Report 2016.

Both technologies are also beginning to overcome technological and financial barriers for deployment in Europe’s energy system of tomorrow.

Europe is currently the global leader in the development of ocean energy technologies, hosting most of the global developers – 52% of tidal stream and 60% of wave energy developers.

However, the installation of ocean energy devices is progressing more slowly, with only 14MW of ocean energy installed capacity at the end of 2016, instead of 641MW declared by the EU Member States in their national renewable energy action plans.

Taking into account projects that have secured funding, 71MW of tidal stream and 37MW of wave energy capacity could be in operation in Europe by 2020.

The pipeline of announced European projects could reach 600MW of tidal stream and 65MW of wave energy capacity by 2020.

The European Commission has strengthened its support for the development of ocean energy within the Strategic Energy Technology Plan of the European Commission.This has resulted in agreements around cost targets for wave and tidal energy. This is to ensure the long-term uptake and viability of both technologies.

The H2020 programme alone has been funding R&D projects in wave and tidal energy with over €60 million in the 2014 to 2016 period.

NER 300, the EU funding programme for innovative low-carbon energy demonstration projects, InnovFin – a series of integrated and complementary financing tools and advisory services offered by the European Investment Bank Group together with the European Commission – and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) mechanisms are supporting the deployment of demonstration projects.

According to the report, the next few years will be fundamental to understanding how far and how fast the markets for both wave and tidal energy technology can be formed.

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