Renewable Power Surge: UK Sets Out to Be the ‘Rolls Royce’ of Marine Energy

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Marine power – generating clean, renewable electricity primarily from ocean waves and tidal currents – has been high up on the energy policy and political agenda across the UK, particularly in Scotland.

Subsidy levels for investing in renewable energy projects to do with producing electricity from waves and tidal currents would more than double in England and Wales under plans proposed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

DECC focused “on ‘scalable’ lower cost technologies” as to change support and incentives for large-scale renewable generation projects from 2013-2017 as the UK strives to meet the 2020 renewable energy targets established in its national Renewables Obligation (RO).

The proposed increases will come at the expense of lower subsidies for wind farms, which would be cut by 10%, as well as for waste, biomass and offshore wind projects, according to an Out-Law report.

Up north, the Scottish government announced the launch of the 18 million pound (~$29 million) Wave and Tidal Commercialization Fund to support development of its first commercial wave and tidal power arrays, part of an overall 35 million pounds (~US$56.35 million) to be devoted to fostering development and commercialization of ‘green’ technologies.

Boosting Marine Energy Start-Ups, Investments

The marine power surge is giving a boost to a growing population of UK-based marine power start-ups, which are increasingly attracting the attention of much larger industrial and engineering corporations.

Venerable aviation engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce announced that its prototype tidal power turbine installed sub-sea off northwest Scotland’s Orkney Islands has generated and fed more than 100 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity into the national grid.

Designed and built by wholly-owned Rolls Royce subsidiary Tidal Generation, the 500 kilowatt (kW) turbine continues to run at a test site at the European Marine Energy Centre.

Now in the first of three planned stages, Sweden energy multinational Vattenfall’s Aegir Wave Power project off the Shetland coast may expand from 10MW to more than 100MW after eight years of operation, the Shetland Times reported yesterday.

The second phase of the project, slated to begin in 2015, would see as many as 14 Pelamis wave power generators linked in an array capable of generating 10MW of clean, renewable power at a cost of 60 million pounds (US$96.6 million).

Kawasaki Heavy Industries recently signed a contract with EMEC to test a tidal energy device at an EMEC test site in Eday, as Japan moves with increasing urgency to meet more of its energy needs via renewable resources.

“Scotland has around one quarter of Europe’s tidal energy resource and a growing expertise in offshore renewables and I am determined that we continue to encourage world-leading companies like KHI to work with us in developing pioneering technologies that can power the economies of the future and benefit the generations that follow us,” Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond commented.

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