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Revealing the full potential of tidal stream power

By Simon Cheeseman, ORE Catapult

A new study funded by the TIGER project has shed fresh light on the unique advantages and potential of tidal stream power. The study was compiled by some of the UK’s leading experts in the field of tidal energy and led by Dr Danny Coles, Research Fellow at University of Plymouth.

Here are my thoughts on the some of the key headlines from the study:

  • Tidal stream power has the potential to deliver 11% of the UK’s current electricity requirements and make a significant contribution to the government’s Net Zero target.

  • Achieving this would require around 11.5GW of tidal stream capacity to be installed. Capacity currently stands at just 18MW. It took the offshore wind industry approximately 20 years to reach 11.5GW of installed capacity. Against a confident blueprint of cost reduction developed by offshore wind, it is vital that the pace of development for tidal stream is increased if it is to make a full contribution to Net Zero.

  • To realise this potential, government funding will be required to accelerate initial installed capacity and thereby innovation and drive down the cost of power, as has been achieved with offshore wind. This will require a change to the way in which government funding schemes are currently configured.

  • The cyclic and predicable nature of the tides can provide important grid benefits over alternative power technologies, such as wind, including supply-demand matching. So the inclusion of tidal stream can help to strengthen the overall mix of power generation technologies.

  • The regions with the highest tidal stream resource are the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters, and the Channel Islands – some of these  locations will  require improvements to grid infrastructure to connect them to high demand centres. In tandem with that, however, other sites could be more easily developed on the South Coast of England and in the Bristol Channel, as they are in closer proximity to existing grid infrastructure and demand centres. The UK government has identified the grid integration of variable generation as a key challenge as renewable power penetration increases. The predictability of tidal stream helps overcome this issue.

  • The study found no evidence that tidal stream turbines have caused significant detrimental environmental impacts to date. Environmental monitoring of single and small arrays of turbines has improved understanding of collision risk between turbines and animals. Similarly, evidence shows that single devices and small arrays have relatively small-scale impacts on sediment distribution and habitat displacement.

The full text of this important study is published in the Royal Society Proceedings A, and you can view it here 

Is tidal stream power an area of interest for your business?

You could be a developer, supply chain specialist or technology innovator. If you are interested in finding out more about how your business could get involved in helping to develop this important new sector or wish to discuss how to commercialise your technology then contact the expert team at Marine-i. We are here to provide the world-class research support and access to test facilities you need to make your ideas a commercial reality.

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[Image: SIMEC Atlantis Energy]