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The vital importance of our marine energy resources

By Matt Hodson, Marine Hub Operations Director, Cornwall Development Company

We are fortunate in the UK to have an invaluable natural resource – our coastline. The UK has 11,072 miles of coastline, coupled with some of the highest tidal ranges in the world. As a result, it is believed that the UK has as much as 50% of the total tidal energy resource in Europe.

It is vital for the future prosperity of our country, and for the benefit of the environment, that we do all we can to reap the full potential of this resource.

The Government has estimated that wave and tidal energy could deliver up to 20 per cent of the UK’s current electricity needs. Marine energy therefore has to form an important part of our country’s renewable energy strategy for the future.

We have now reached a point where some tidal energy devices are progressing towards commercialisation, while wave energy devices are still at the development stage. There are still huge technical challenges to be faced in this area of offshore renewable technology.

For operating at sea, these marine energy devices need to be constructed to deal with the massive stresses and strains that the ocean places on them, while also being highly efficient at generating energy. This is important, pioneering work that tests the finest minds in marine technology.

We need to invent totally new ways of capturing wave and tidal energy and doing in a way that is affordable and commercially sustainable. In effect, we are creating a totally new industry, which takes a long term vision and commitment. Yet every day we see that important progress is being made.

Fulfilling our energy needs is one part of the equation. The other part is the huge opportunity that offshore renewable technology represents for British industry. Due to the outstanding coastal resources of the UK and our unique expertise, our country has already become a world leader and an important focal point and proving ground for wave and tidal energy.

The UK is therefore well placed to develop industry-leading products, skills and expertise that could be exported around the world. Thus, offshore renewable technology could become a multi-billion pound sector which helps to drive future jobs and economic growth in the UK. It would be a fantastic outcome for our country if, just as North Sea oil reserves come to an end, a completely new energy industry emerges which is totally sustainable.

In creating this new industry, this cannot be done by big businesses alone. Small businesses have a vital role to play in providing the specialist components and technologies needed for marine energy to grow to its full potential. However, this can be a daunting area for small businesses to approach without some expert help and guidance.

That is where Marine-i comes in. Even if your business is new to the marine technology sector, we can provide the specialist expertise, support, testing facilities and other assistance needed to develop your ideas and bring them to market. Together, we can help take some of the risk out of your new business idea while also significantly speeding up the process of getting it tested and launched.

The years ahead will be a really exciting phase in the development of offshore renewable technology, and a period of huge opportunity for the businesses that service it.