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Marine Renewable Energy Technology Taking Longer Than Hoped

Tidal stream and wave power technologies are taking longer than hoped to develop, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, who have recently revised down their estimates for their deployment by 11% and 72% respectively. By 2020, Bloomberg predict that tidal stream and wave power will grow to 148 MW and 21 MW respectively, trivial figures when compared to their renewable cousins — wind and solar.

Marine renewable energy technology has been a dream for many of us for a long time. Given the stereotypical knowledge that planet Earth is mostly water, it strikes many as incongruous that marine renewable energy technologies are not receiving more attention and investment towards development.

Bloomberg believes that, among the many reasons why marine renewable energy technologies have not taken off, “project setbacks, fatigue among venture capital investors, and the sheer difficulty of deploying devices in the harsh marine environment” are primary factors contributing to the slow development of this renewable technology.

“Governments in countries such as the UK, France, Australia and Canada have identified tidal and wave as large opportunities not just for clean power generation, but also for creating local jobs and building national technological expertise,” said Angus McCrone, senior analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“That continues to be the case, and we will see further progress over the rest of this decade. But caution is necessary because taking devices from the small-scale demonstrator stage to the pre-commercial array stage is proving even more expensive and time-consuming than many companies – and their investors – expected.”

Tidal stream and wave power technologies are in no way new technologies, but getting them off the ground — so to speak — has proven difficult. Subsequently, there is often very little news about the technology, let alone any investment or installation progress. Even an analogue example such as looking at CleanTechnica’s own archives for either technology yields distressingly few results.

Nevertheless, countries do keep making the attempt to keep marine renewable energy as a possible future outcome. July of 2014 saw two separate announcements out of the UK — the expansion of wave and tidal energy zones and the planned construction of six tidal lagoons.

Bloomberg is not wrong, however, and these technologies have a tremendous uphill battle ahead of them, pointing out that several companies have failed or faltered over the past 12 months — including Oceanlinx and Wavebob, who both went out of business.

“Tidal stream and wave power companies continue to face huge challenges,” confirmed Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Although the potential is almost limitless, it’s a tough environment.

“It is possible to make equipment reliable, as the offshore oil and gas industry has shown, but it’s not cheap. And you have to put a huge amount of steel and concrete into the water, which is inherently expensive. It is still unclear whether this can be done at a cost competitive with offshore wind, let alone other clean energy generating technologies.”

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