Trends and Growth in Ocean Energy

The year 2008 was an important one for ocean energy. The world's first 'pre-commercial tidal demonstrator', the Marine Current Turbines' SeaGen tidal generator, began to feed electricity into the Northern Ireland Grid (Fig. 26.11a). Shortly afterwards, the world's first wave farm array (of three Pelamis devices) became operational at Aguçadoura in northern Portugal (Fig. 26.11b).

Fig. 26.11 Recent marine energy deployments. a MCT's SeaGen pre-commercial tidal demonstrator (Source:, and b Pelamis Wavepow-er's 3 x 750 kW Pelamis array at Agujadoura (Source: php?id=149)

Fig. 26.11 Recent marine energy deployments. a MCT's SeaGen pre-commercial tidal demonstrator (Source:, and b Pelamis Wavepow-er's 3 x 750 kW Pelamis array at Agujadoura (Source: php?id=149)

There have been fewer deployments in 2009, perhaps the most notable being the deployment of the Aquamarine Oyster surge device at the European Marine Energy Centre in the Orkney Islands.

A number of major energy companies (Total, Chevron) and utilites (RWE, Stat-kraft, Vattenfall and Fortum) have invested in ocean energy device or project developments and the venture capital community has remained involved. Statkraft, the Norwegian transmission system operator and generator, opened the world's first prototype osmotic power plant.

The US Department of Energy continued its investment in R & D projects. That funding covers a range of projects and, in 2009, includes funding for accelerated market developments. Some of the 2009 funding is dedicated to a rejuvenation of research into ocean thermal energy conversion. Other governments continue to support R & D projects and device developments, with a growing focus on providing energy for desalination or the direct production of drinking water from ocean energy.

The Scottish Executive offered the first prize for ocean energy, called the Saltire Prize (GBP 10 million), to be awarded to the first commercially viable wave or tidal stream technology to generate more than 100 GWh of electricity over a continuous 2-year period.

Undoubtedly, investments and developments in ocean energy have been affected by the world's economic situation since the middle of 2007. As the world's economies recover during 2010, activities deferred during 2008 should be resurgent. The growing numbers of device developments and international testing centres should lead to an acceleration and maturation of technology development to the first commercial devices. For the nascent technologies, such as OTEC and osmotic power, recent R & D and prototype investments should lead to more concrete developments in coming years.

Lastly, a number of countries and organizations have proposed targets for installed generation capacity from ocean energy. Forecasts made in the early 2000s (e.g., Scottish Executive 2004) have proven too optimistic but ocean energy capacity is now growing. Presently, the total capacity—from all forms of ocean energy—is relatively small (c. 300 MW) with the largest contribution coming from the 240 MW La Rance Tidal Barrage in northern France. However, this total will almost double in 2011, when the 254 MW Sihwa barrage in Korea comes on stream.

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