Tidal power doesn’t get a lot of love in the renewable energy world these days but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t make a major contribution to the world’s energy needs. The largest tidal power installation in the world at the moment is the MeyGen tidal stream project in the waters off the northern coast of Scotland.
Last year, that facility exported 13.8 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity to the grid, enough to power 3,800 typical homes in the UK. That’s about double the output of the MeyGen facility the prior year, according to CNBC. Simec Atlantis Energy, which owns and operates the MeyGen installation, says Phase 1A of the project uses four 1.5 megawatt turbines. (Note: All photos courtesy of Semec Atlantis Energy.)
Simec Atlantis Energy has big plans for tidal power. Project Stroma, formerly known as Phase 1B, will place 2 more turbines on the ocean floor. Unlike Phase 1A, however, those turbines will transmit electricity to the shore using a single undersea cable. The company says that innovation will “significantly reduce the costs associated with grid connection. The length of power export cable as well as the amount of onshore conversion equipment required for grid connection will be significantly reduced, as will the amount of horizontal directional drilling and the amount of vessel time required for cable installation.”
Making The Numbers Work For Investors
Tidal power so far is definitely in the experimental stage. It needs to scale up quite a bit before it becomes attractive to investors. Semec Atlantis Energy has all the permits in hand to expand its tidal power operations. In Phase 1C, which is under development, an additional 49 turbines with a total capacity of 73.5 MW are planned.
“The project will…..provide an investment opportunity for commercial debt and equity providers to invest in tidal stream projects,” the company says. “In addition, Phase 1C will create an estimated 5,300 full time roles, repurposing jobs from the oil and gas sector and placing Scotland at the forefront of an estimated 25GW global export market for decades to come, as well as significantly reducing LCOE.”
Tidal Power Is Growing
Recently, Scottish firm Nova Innovation was awarded a contract to install undersea turbines in the Bay of Fundy off the shores of Nova Scotia. That project is being partially funded by the Canadian government. Another innovative company, Orbital Marine Power, says it is developing the world’s most powerful tidal stream generator. It uses a unique floating platform to support the turbine below it, eliminating the need for specialized ships to install the system. Orbital expects the first O2 tidal turbines to begin operations this year.
Tidal power may not be as well known as wind and solar power, but as the technology improves it could become an important part of the world’s clean energy mix.