New report suggests Great Britain could derive 20 percent of energy needs from ocean power, with electricity production valued at as much as £190 million annually.
The U.K. is the global leader in marine energy, with both the government policies and natural resources to derive 20 percent of its energy needs from wave and tidal power, according to a new study from industry analysts Frost & Sullivan.
It could take five to six years for full commercialization of marine energy, according to research analyst Gouri Nambudripad. Marine energy could deliver 10 percent of the world’s energy needs, about 7 percent or 8 percent from wave energy and the remainder from tidal projects, she said.
“Wave energy has much more of a future,” she told the Cleantech Group. “Wave has drawn the most amount of equity, the most interest from investors, the government has paid more attention, and thereby it’s done better than tidal.”
Nambudripad said that trend is likely to continue, further propelling wave power into the realm of mature renewable sectors such as wind and solar. The UK alone holds 50 percent of Europe’s wave energy potential because of its choppy offshore waves.
About six main technologies dominate the sector, with a few standout companies including Pelamis Wave Power, Ocean Power Technologies and Aquamarine Power Ltd—all companies that have worked with utilities to get their technologies adopted, Nambudripad noted.
In September, Pelamis and Ocean Power Technologies began deploying their first commercial projects in continental Europe (see Pelamis starts Portugal wave-power farm and Ocean Power Technologies deploys Spanish wave unit).
Pelamis next plans to install four of its machines later this year 2 kilometers off the west coast of the Orkney Islands. The Scottish government is providing £4 million funding for the 3MW project with ScottishPower (see ScottishPower to build world’s biggest ocean power project).
Another Pelamis project is being planned for 2009 in Cornwall (see U.K. plugs into Wave Hub).
Nambudripad said the EU could derive 3 gigawatts of installed capacity from marine power by 2020.
Across the globe, tidal energy has the capacity for 100 terawatt-hours a year, while wave energy could produce 750 to 2,000 tWh a year, she said. An investment of £500 billion would be necessary in order for wave energy to produce 2,000 tWh per year, she said.
Nambudripad said it’s difficult to judge which tidal technologies are likely to be successful because less is known about the field.
Nambudripad said tidal energy projects have faced more opposition because of the environmental concerns, such as with the UK’s Severn Estuary tidal proposals (see U.K. launches carbon capture and storage project). The project has been criticized for its £20 billion pricetag and its large scale, which could interfere with marine life in an environmentally sensitive area, she said.
“In contrast, wave energy devices tend to be small and don’t occupy a lot of space,” she said. “The offshore devices are quite far out into the sea. There are lot of reasons for wave getting a lot more attention.”