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Collaboration Key to Harnessing Ocean Power Potential

Sep 14, 2012

Co-authored by Dave Pratt, Director of Nautricity, and Mike Rosenfeld, Vice Consul and Senior Director for Clean Technology, North America, UK Trade and Investment

As highlighted in a recent article by Renewable Energy World, the UK is playing a leading role in the design, testing and scale-up of new ocean energy technologies. In fact, this week a delegation of British academic, government and industry representatives is bringing its marine energy know-how to Nova Scotia for the Ocean Renewable Energy Group’s (OREG) annual conference. Much of the discussion at the global forum will focus on how the UK and Canada – two of the most ambitious nations in regards to developing marine energy – can best work together to accelerate development of this largely untapped clean energy resource.

This year’s conference builds off momentum created last fall when British Prime Minister Cameron and Canadian Prime Minister Harper signed the Canada/UK Joint Declaration, which included a commitment to transatlantic marine energy collaboration and a “plan to lead the world in moving forward from pilot wave and tidal energy devices to exploring actual power generation stations connected to our respective electricity grids.”  Both nations are clearly committed to developing this burgeoning industry through cooperation and coordination.

There’s no doubt that the UK is being looked at as a model:  test beds like the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), part of the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Energy Park (MEP) in Scotland, will continue to be instrumental in advancing the potential of ocean energy in the UK and beyond. These research centers are attracting international attention, with power players like Siemens and Alstom flocking to collaborate with academia and government to build and test new ocean power technologies at scale. They have also acted as archetypes for similar programs around the world like the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) in Canada, as well as other marine energy development centers in the U.S., Japan and even North Korea.

Equally important to moving ocean energy from pilot to the grid, however, is collaboration between the companies developing this new energy resource and those that are designing the ocean power technologies of the future.

The Canadian government has committed more than $75 million to marine renewable energy development projects in the last five years, according to OREG. Canada also has the most favorable feed in tariff in the world for ocean energy, legacy maritime infrastructure that can be tapped into, and deployment sites that are only a few meters from the electric grid. What it needs now is the technology, and that’s where collaboration with the UK comes in.

The UK is home to companies engineering the next generation of marine energy technology. Nautricity, for example, is pioneering a 500kw simpler, lighter tidal turbine that doesn’t need to be secured to the ocean floor with massive foundations and can be easily and cheaply deployed from small vessels. The goal was to design a turbine that is more efficient and cost-competitive than the “first generation” model of large, heavy “marinized wind turbines” that need expensive foundation structures to hold them in place on the sea bed. Testing of this most recent of Nautricity’s family of devices is underway now with commercial deployment off the coast of Scotland scheduled for 2014.

Nautricity is one of several UK companies and academic institutions currently working in Canada to develop the region’s ocean power industry. The company is working with private partners, research institutions and the public sector on several tidal energy prospects, on both coasts. Partnerships like these facilitate the sharing of knowledge, expertise and the needed resources to take the international ocean energy market to the next level. 

With the right resources and know-how invested in it, ocean power has the potential to compete with other renewable power sources and be a viable part of the world’s future energy mix. A marine energy expert at the Carbon Trust recently predicted that the cost of wave and tidal energy in Britain could fall by over half to current offshore wind levels in the next decade if more research and development is done. And, according to RenewableUK, the marine renewable industry could deliver 10,000 jobs by 2020 in the UK. This is promising news for any country looking to diversify its energy portfolio.

The challenge now, of course, is to turn this potential into reality. The marine energy industry is well on its way to realizing its potential, and with continued overseas collaboration between government, academia and companies leading the charge, this nascent industry can deliver on its promise.

At the OREG 2012 Conference this week, Nautricity is one of several British companies and institutions in a delegation led by UK Trade & Investment and Scottish Development International, the government departments that facilitate foreign business entry into the UK market.

The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.

Mike Rosenfeld is Vice-Consul with UK Trade & Investment, the UK Government’s international business development agency, in the British Consulate-General, Los Angeles. He serves as senior director in the USA for the Clean Technology sector and has significant expertise in renewable energy and e...


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